Episcopal News Service

Subscribe to Episcopal News Service feed
The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
Updated: 1 hour 40 min ago

Episcopalians invited to grow as evangelists thorough 30-day challenge

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 5:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] Think about the last 24 hours. What has given you joy?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you’ve taken up the 30-Day Evangelism Challenge, the answer to that question was just the beginning.

“The reason it’s 30 days is it takes 30 days to change a habit,” said the Rev. Becky Zartman, one of the creators of the challenge, which launched Aug. 4 on the Episcopal Evangelists’ Facebook page and is scheduled to conclude on Sept. 2.

The new habit formed by challenge participants is the practice of evangelism. The game-like series of daily prompts encourages reflection and action, harnessing the recent energy in the Episcopal Church around evangelism and seizing on the spirit of experimentation encouraged by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Way of Love and its seven rule-of-life practices.

“Sometimes the narrative of decline in our church is so heavy on the heart,” said the Rev. Patricia Lyons, the Diocese of Washington’s missioner for evangelism and community engagement. “And as a result, we lose creativity in that scarcity, and we’re afraid to play and experiment. And I understand why. The stakes are huge in a post-Christian culture.”

She and Zartman were determined to try something new and learn from the experience. Zartman serves as an Episcopal chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Both were part of the team of advisers who met with the presiding bishop last year to discuss evangelism and who produced the framework for the Way of Love.

The 30-Day Evangelism Challenge grew out of those conversations, as well as Lyons’ experimenting with what she calls “micro-formation.” She saw social media as the ideal platform.

Lyons and Zartman are both Facebook administrators on the Episcopal Evangelists page, which is now approaching 4,000 members after its launch just a few months ago. This became their test group for the Evangelism Challenge. So far, the response has been encouraging, with more than 50 churches sharing the Episcopal Evangelists’ posts about the challenge and more than 2,000 engagements with those posts, Lyons said.

The 30 days are broken into three phases. Over the first 10 days, Zartman, tasked with writing the individual posts, challenged participants to look inward and think about the place of God in their own lives.

Day 4: “Think about your life. When did you feel close to God? When did you feel far away? What brought you home?”

Day 7: “Write a thank you note to someone who’s been influential in your faith journey. Who did you write to, and why?”

“Where Jesus shows up in people’s lives never ceases to amaze me,” Zartman said.

For the second phase, participants were encouraged to look around and seek God in their neighborhoods and their neighbors. Zartman sees such exercises building the foundation of a uniquely Episcopal brand of evangelism.

“This isn’t about just going out and handing out tracts,” she said. “Rather it’s about where Jesus is already working in the world and discovering where you can join.”

The challenge’s final 10 days are more of a call to action, encouraging participants to pray, serve, show kindness and, when the moment is right, talk about their faith with others.

“My hope is to make a curriculum that people can use in their parishes that will help people stay accountable to each other and actually foster a sense of the practice of evangelism on the ground in parishes,” Zartman said.

Part of the challenge’s value is the Facebook discussion it fosters among participants, though Zartman also created a simple website to house the daily posts. Lyons also thought one of the most interesting mixes of responses came on Day 6, when participants were encouraged to consider where God is working in their own lives by asking their social media followers.

Many expressed feeling awkward at even asking the question, with one comparing it to a teenager posting a selfie and asking for compliments. But some were pleasantly surprised by the feedback they received from friends, and several commenters felt encouraged at hearing their efforts to lead a Christian life had not gone unnoticed.

“I was really taken with how hard that question was,” Lyons said, but part of the challenge is to brave the uncomfortable. “This is a very good Episcopal formation moment.”

Lyons said she has received numerous emails from churches interested in modifying this challenge for different contexts, and she and Zartman plan to spend time after these first 30 days are over to review what worked and what could be improved. Eventually, they envision any number of similar 30-day challenges centered around other aspects of faith, including the seven practices of the Way of Love.

“It seems like the church is hungry for an Episcopal-style evangelism,” Zartman said, and Episcopalians are learning how to articulate their faith in their own way. “This is about the amazingness of God and sharing that love.”

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

Episcopal priests join other faith leaders to sue New Jersey county over ICE contract

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 3:31pm

[Episcopal News Service] Advocacy for immigration detainees can take many forms, and four Episcopal priests in one New Jersey county have joined three other faith leaders to add an open-meetings law challenge to their efforts.

The seven, represented by the ACLU of New Jersey, filed a lawsuit Aug. 27 accusing the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders of violating the state’s Sunshine Law when it voted to renew a 10-year contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house in its county jail immigrant detainees who are awaiting deportation hearings. The contract earns the county millions of dollars.

The lawsuit says that the freeholders on July 10 unanimously agreed to postpone discussing and voting on whether to reauthorize for 10 more years what has become a controversial contract until the regular August meeting. The freeholders published an agenda of a July 12 meeting with the postponement noted and, the seven say, told people who arrived early to that meeting that the vote was postponed. However, after the meeting began, the board put the ICE contract back on the agenda and rapidly voted to renew it, over the opposition of two individual freeholders and those activists who happened to attend, they say.

The July 12 renewal resolution calls for ICE to pay the county $120 per detainee per day, a $10 increase from the $110 it had paid previously. Radio station WNYC reported that about two-thirds of inmates at the Hudson County Correctional Facility — 800 people — are immigration detainees.

Hudson and two neighboring counties are paid $6 million a month on ICE contracts and have collected more than $150 million since 2015, the station reported. Along with the privately-run Elizabeth Contract Detention Center, the four New Jersey facilities house approximately 2,000 immigrants.

If Hudson County’s current detainee count remains near 800, it will receive approximately $35 million a year, more than half of its total Department of Corrections budget. The freeholders predict massive layoffs at the jail or a big tax hike if the contract is severed, according to published reports.

Anthony Vainieri, a Democrat who chairs the board, has previously said that the contract allows immigrant detainees to stay close to their families and friends. Most of the detainees in the jail located in Kearny, New Jersey, are from across the Hudson River in New York. He has also said that ICE will not stop detaining people if the county stops holding them.

The first named plaintiff in the lawsuit, the Rev. Thomas Murphy, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Church of the Incarnation in Jersey City, told Episcopal News Service via email that “first of all, the freeholders should void their previous vote and start over, allowing for public input about the possibility of renewing the contract with ICE.”

“My hope is that this free and open discussion will allow for reflection on whether Hudson County should be in this business at all and, especially, if the county should be profiting from the misery of the detainees.”

Murphy said that question goes to what Episcopalians mean when they repent, in the words of the confession in Enriching Our Worship 1, (page 19 here) “the evil done on our behalf.”

The Rev. Elaine Ellis Thomas, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Hoboken and another of the plaintiffs, said in an interview with ENS that the freeholders “deliberately deceived the public about when [the contract] would be discussed and voted on.”

But there is also a larger issue, Thomas said. The advocates don’t believe that the detainees ought to be jailed while they await those deportation hearings or asylum determinations. “Hudson County is balancing their budget on the backs of detainees who are denied due process,” she said. “They’re not being given the same legal rights under ICE as anyone else that might be a prisoner there.”

However, Thomas said, “fighting that battle from a legal perspective is probably too high a bar right now.” Those who have visited with detainees say the argument about detaining them near their families does not carry much weight because families are often denied access to the jail or they live far away to begin with.

And then there are the deaths. Between June 2017 and March 2018, six people died while in the jail, the lawsuit says. The first death was a detained immigrant and, of the five others, four were by suicide. The lawsuit says the freeholders investigated and promised an overhaul of the medical care provided at the jail, arrangements of which are still being finalized.

“The Hudson County jail is just a really bad place to be,” Thomas said.

The other five religious leaders who brought the suit include the Rev. Gary Commins, an associate priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Church of the Incarnation in Jersey City; the Rev. Laurie Jean Wurm, rector of Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City; Ashraf Eisa, board member of the Islamic Center of Jersey City; the Rev. William Henkel, pastor of the First Reformed Church of Secaucus; and the Rev. Frances Teabout, and pastor of the Open Door Worship Center in Jersey City.

They were among 56 signers of a statement condemning the freeholders’ action. Those signers also included Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith and Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark Joseph Tobin. The statement was read at an Aug. 9 meeting of the board.

The signers said that they are grateful to have been given access for pastoral ministry among ICE detainees and are sensitive to the concerns that canceling the ICE contract entirely might put detainees far from lawyers, activists and family. Those concerns “should be part of a public conversation about what the county is pushing for in contract negotiations with the federal government, and how the funds that are generated from housing immigrant detainees are spent,” they wrote. “Diverting at least some of these funds to immigrant services or direct aid would be appropriate.”

The Episcopal Church’s support for immigrants, including those facing deportation, was underscored last month by the 79th General Convention, which passed multiple resolutions on immigration issues. Thomas said that the way Episcopalians have been formed in the church, especially by the baptismal covenant, “have led us to this point and I think it’s really important that people know that this is what the Episcopal Church is about. That’s our Episcopal identity.”

Thomas, who admits to being “the new kid on the block” having come to Hoboken eight months ago from St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, said her involvement is “what my faith compels me to do, to stand up to powers and principalities and to advocate for humane, dignified treatment for all human beings.”

“The other component of it is that the narrative of religion, Christianity in particular, is being hijacked by a certain narrative that does not match my own.”

That narrative, she said, is centered on law and order, the attitude that might makes right, protecting borders and the need to insulate and protect. “We want people to know that there are faith leaders, and there are Christians, who believe that we’re not on the side of the rich and the powerful and the privileged but on the side of the poor and the oppressed and those who need advocates who do have the privilege and the power to do that.”

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

Solidarity Walk in New Hampshire helps energize state’s immigrant justice efforts

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 6:00pm

Participants in the Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice make their way from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Dover, tracing the path immigrants take when they are detained by federal authorities and held in the Stratford County jail. Photo: David Price

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians and their faith and community partners in a New Hampshire immigrant justice movement hope to build on the momentum gained during last week’s Solidarity Walk and a concluding prayer vigil held outside the county jail where federal immigrant detainees are held.

The four-day trek covered about 40 miles from Manchester to Dover, with several dozen people joining at least one of the segments along the way. On the final day, Aug. 25, Diocese of New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld was among the speakers who addressed a crowd of about 100 people gathered on the lawn in front of the Strafford County Jail.

“Jesus said to have compassion for those who are in prison,” Hirschfield told Episcopal News Service by phone on Aug. 27, recapping the experience. He compared it to his experience in July when hundreds of Episcopalians who were attending the 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas, gathered for a prayer service outside an immigrant detention facility in the area.

New Hampshire Bishop Rob Hirschfeld speaks Aug. 25 outside the Strafford County jail in Dover during the prayer vigil that concluded the Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice. Photo: David Price

“What I remember about both [vigils] is the Spanish sentence ‘te vemos’ – ‘we see you,’” Hirschfeld said. “The walk in New Hampshire was a way of our saying we see you, we value you, we see your plight. And I would also say we need to see ourselves and what this country is becoming, which is increasingly callous, brutal, insensitive to the suffering of our neighbors.”

The New Hampshire Council of Churches was one of the lead organizers of the Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice, which sought to raise awareness of the plight of immigrants in the state at a time when much of the focus has been on conflict along the Mexican border, especially under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy toward immigrants crossing into the United States.

And as Hirschfeld mentioned, another goal was to offer support for those who have been detained or who face deportation, said the Rev. Jason Wells, an Episcopal priest who serves as executive director of the council. He also noted that these several days on the road have strengthened the state’s community of immigrant supporters.

“There is a real shared experience, a real shared struggle in a way, to make the walk, and it brought us closer together,” he said. That solidary is expected to carry through to the weekly prayer vigils held outside the offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Manchester, with the next one scheduled for Aug. 28.

The Solidarity Walk kicked off with about 50 walkers, Wells said. About 25 people participated on each of the following two days, and participation rose to about 75 on the final day. Wells walked some of the segments and served as a support vehicle driver on other segments.

The walkers were met by a mix of reactions from the public. Negative responses ranged from drivers giving them thumbs down signs – or a certain other crude hand gesture – to people shouting, “build the wall,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise of a border wall.

But many people instead gave honks of support, and walkers were greeted by other “pieces of solidarity,” Wells said. They were joined on one segment by a Christian leader from the local Indonesian immigrant community, who was stopped along the way by an Indonesian Muslim leader offering words of support. At another point, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visited with the walkers and wished them well.

A family from El Salvador joined the walk for some of the segments, and their stories of fleeing to the United States and seeking asylum filled the walkers’ conversations with a sense of purpose as friendships were formed around a common cause, said the Rev. Gail Avery, the Diocese of New Hampshire’s canon for transition and community engagement.

“It was amazing to see the support that we did get along the way,” said Avery, who participated on the first three days. “We had people that came out of their houses, offered us water, offered us a bathroom break, which was amazing.”

Avery’s commitment to working for immigrant justice has been strengthened by the experience of passing through a checkpoint that the Border Patrol had set up on a highway through her state. As a white woman driving alone, she was waved through without delay, but she suspects that if she had been traveling with her daughter-in-law – a Salvadoran immigrant – authorities would not have let her pass without stopping her.

“I just believe that we are a land of liberty and freedom, and we’re a land of immigrants, a nation of immigrants, and we have just lost sight of it,” she said.

The Strafford County jail, one of six facilities in New England holding immigration detainees for the federal government. Photo: David Price

The Episcopal Church’s support for immigrants, including those facing deportation, was underscored last month by the 79th General Convention, which passed multiple resolutions on immigration issues.

The church and other faith communities are not taking political stances but rather pushing back against “the tyranny of ideology over humanity,” Hirschfeld said. Respecting the dignity of all humans is part of Episcopalians’ baptismal covenant, he said, and that message will live on in the ongoing prayer vigils held in Manchester when immigrants are called to check in with federal authorities.

The only thing that might change now at the vigils is the footwear, Wells said.

“We’ll see if people need to buy some new shoes before they go,” he said, after walking so many miles last week.

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

Los datos de los Informes parroquiales de 2017 ya están disponibles

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 9:24am

El Rev. canónigo Dr. Michael Barlowe, oficial ejecutivo de la Convención General, ha anunciado que los datos de los Informes parroquiales de 2017 de la Iglesia Episcopal ya están disponibles en inglés y español aquí.

El canónigo Barlowe observó que los datos de 2017 “continúan las tendencias recientes, con una disminución en las cifras claves de membresía y asistencia”, aunque “el ingreso congregacional a través de las promesas y otras ofertas ha aumentado”, incluso a pesar de que el número general de congregantes ha disminuido.

El Informe parroquial es la recopilación de datos más antigua y continua de la Iglesia Episcopal. Por tradición y regla, los requisitos de presentación de informes son desarrollados por el Comité de la Cámara de Diputados sobre el estado de la Iglesia, utilizando un formulario aprobado por el Consejo Ejecutivo de la Iglesia. Supervisado por el Oficial Ejecutivo de la Convención General, el Informe parroquial toca a todas las congregaciones de la iglesia. Junto con otros datos, incluido el de Registrador de ordenaciones y el Registro de la Convención General, el Informe parroquial proporciona una visión interna del estado de la iglesia.

Los documentos recientemente publicados incluyen:

•           Datos Domésticos Rápidos Episcopales y Tendencias de Datos Domésticos

Rápidos Episcopales 2013-2017

•           Miembros bautizados por provincia y diócesis 2007-2017

•           Asistencia promedio del domingo por provincia y diócesis 2007-2017

•           Totales estadísticos para la Iglesia Episcopal por provincia 2016-2017

•           Totales estadísticos para la Iglesia Episcopal por Provincia y Diócesis 2016-2017

•           Ingresos de bandeja nacional y de la promesa de donación 2012-2017

•           Promesa de donación promedio por provincia y diócesis 2012-2017

•           Totales financieros y ASA por diócesis 2017

Los informes se pueden encontrar en el sitio web de la Convención General en http://www.generalconvention.org/research-and-statistics/#PR-Results.

Para obtener más información, comuníquese con la oficina de la Convención General a gcoffice@episcopalchurch.org o pr@dfms.org.

Bishops of Iowa, Swaziland to attend consecration in Scotland

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 2:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop Alan Scarfe of Iowa and Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland will be taking part the consecration Aug. 25 of the Very Rev. Andrew Swift as new bishop of Brechin of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The service will take place at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee and will be presided over by Scottish Episcopal Church Primus Mark Strange. The Dioceses of Iowa, Swaziland and Brechin have been a three-way companion link for the past 30 years.

Read the full article here.

Unity and reconciliation in Democratic Republic of Congo

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 12:12pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Young people from the Democratic Republic of Congo are rising up as reconcilers in their communities. At the Diocese of Goma’s second annual youth conference, teenagers and young adults from across the diocese spent four days praying, worshiping, and playing football together, creating friendships that cross tribal lines. The conference, which began on Aug. 16, was titled “Whole Life Discipleship,” with a focus on unity and reconciliation.

Read the full article here.

El Tribunal de Revisión de la II Provincia emite un Informe de resultados

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 10:32am

[23 de agosto de 2018] El Tribunal de Revisión de la II Provincia dio a conocer su Informe de Resultados respecto a la impugnación de la elección del obispo coadjutor de la Diócesis de Haití.

Luego de la elección, el 2 de junio, del Ven. Joseph Kerwin Délicat como obispo coadjutor de la Diócesis de Haití, un grupo de delegados laicos y clericales a la Convención Electoral presentaron por escrito objeciones al proceso de la elección. El Canon III.11.8 (a) describe los pasos a seguir para impugnar el proceso de una elección.

Tal como lo estipula el Título III.8, el Obispo Primado remitió el asunto al Tribunal de Revisión de la II Provincia para que investigara la denuncia (la Diócesis de Haití es parte de la II Provincia). El Informe de Resultados se encuentra aquí. Copias del informe se les distribuirán a los obispos con jurisdicción y a todos los comités permanentes diocesanos como parte del proceso de consentimiento de la elección.

Las diócesis tienen 120 días después que se hayan enviado las solicitudes de consentimiento para dar o retirar su consentimiento a la elección diocesana.

Court of Review of Province II issues report of findings on Haiti bishop election

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 10:31am

[Episcopal News Service] The Province II Court of Review has released its Report of Findings regarding the contestation of the election of the bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Haiti.

Following the June 2 election of the Ven. Joseph Kerwin Delicat as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Haiti, a group of lay and clergy delegates to the Electing Convention filed written objections to the election process. Canon III.11.8 (a) outlines the process for contesting the election process.

As required by Title III.8, the presiding bishop referred the matter to the Province II Court of Review for investigation of the complaint. (Province II includes the Diocese of Haiti.) The Court’s Report of Findings is here. Copies of the report will be distributed to bishops with jurisdiction and all Diocesan Standing Committees as part of the election consent process.

Dioceses have 120 days after requests for consents are sent out to give or withhold their consent to a diocesan election.

Read more on this story here.

Diocese of Newark notified of successful canonical consent process for bishop-elect

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 5:05pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal Diocese of Newark has received notification from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Michael Barlowe, registrar of General Convention, that Bishop-Elect Carlye J. Hughes has received the required majority of consents in the canonical consent process detailed in Canon III.11.3.

In giving consent to her ordination and consecration, standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction attest to knowing of “no impediment on account of which” Bishop-Elect Hughes ought to be ordained to the office of bishop and believing that her election was conducted in accordance with the Canons.

The Rev. Carlye J. Hughes was elected the 11th bishop of the Diocese of Newark during a special convention on May 19, 2018, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey. Photo: Nina Nicholson/Diocese of Newark

The Rev. Hughes was chosen 11th bishop of the Diocese of Newark during a special convention on May 19 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, New Jersey. The presiding bishop will officiate at her September 22 ordination and consecration service.

The first woman and first African-American to be elected bishop in the Diocese of Newark, Hughes, 59, is currently rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in the Diocese of Fort Worth, and was one of three nominees.

Hughes was ordained a priest in 2005 after graduating from Virginia Theological Seminary, and has served as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth since 2012. No stranger to the Northeast, her first call was to St. James’ Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Before ordination, she worked as a corporate trainer. She is married to David Smedley.

Therapy dogs are soothing ambassadors for Massachusetts church’s pet ministry

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 4:05pm

Some of Perfect Paws Pet Ministry’s therapy dogs and their owners pose for a photo in Danvers, Massachusetts. Photo: Fran Weil

[Episcopal News Service] Paxton may not understand the full significance of his calling, but the 10-year-old Westie is one of All Saints Episcopal Church’s most dedicated ministers serving as Jesus’ paws in the world.

As a therapy dog dispatched by Perfect Paws Pet Ministry at All Saints in Danvers, Massachusetts, Paxton and his human, Fran Weil, have brought the soothing presence of a canine companion to students of all ages, nursing home residents, hospital patients and addicts in drug rehabilitation centers. Weil is always amazed by the sense of calm that be shared from simply patting her dog’s head.

“As terrific as the response is to our dogs wherever we go, it’s so rewarding for us,” Weil said. “It is really God’s work, and we are so blessed to use one of God’s creatures to do this amazing outreach.”

Weil, the therapy dog coordinator for the church, is one of several parishioners with dogs certified to do this work along with the other 600 active members of Dog B.O.N.E.S. Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts. Some of these therapy dogs were called on to provide comfort to victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Others regularly serve as captive listeners for elementary schoolers learning to read.

In another case a while back, Perfect Paws dispatched one of its therapy dogs to provide “a little comfort time” for the family and friends of a 10-year-old who was hit and killed by a train, Weil said. It offered “a wonderful diversion” from the pain of loss.

Episcopal churches across the country are engaged in pet ministries of one kind or another. One of the most common are the annual services offering pet blessings, typically held in early October around the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals.

The Episcopal Church Asset Map, though not a comprehensive listing, shows at least a dozen congregations that take their pet outreach a step further, from pet supplies collections to fundraisers benefiting the local no-kill animal shelter.

All Saints appears to be the only Episcopal church so fully engaged with a therapy dog ministry, thanks largely to the work of Weil, 71. She describes herself as a longtime lapsed Catholic who began attending Episcopal services late in life and “had never experienced such welcome ever.” She has worshiped at All Saints since 2001.

Her role with Perfect Paws is negotiable: Founder, lead volunteer, honorary pet chaplain – each title might be appropriate, she said. She also sometimes serves as a pet bereavement counselor, and she accompanies pet owners on trips to the veterinarian when tough decisions need to be made about life and death.

Weil is a natural for that kind of work, because her love of animals is nearly universal.

“I love any animal. I’ve never met an animal I haven’t liked,” she said. “Well, I haven’t met a tarantula. I might be a little reluctant.”

All Saints launched Perfect Paws Pet Ministry in May 2010 with a monthly evening Eucharist for pet owners and their pets, all pets – rabbits, birds, cats, but mostly dogs. A story about the service got picked up by the Associated Press and drew national and even international attention to the ministry, Weil said, but the outreach has remained local.

“We started this because we realized that people find God in different ways, and so often it’s through their animals,” she said. “We often say it’s not an accident that ‘God’ spelled backward is ‘dog.’”

The services draw about 30 to 50 people, some of whom have been attending since the beginning, even those whose pets have since died.

The Rev. Marya DeCarlen, rector at All Saints, said only a handful of the pet service regulars are also All Saints parishioners. Perfect Paws, then, has become a distinct worship community centered around pet ownership.

“It is a place for humans and their pets to share life transitions, so a lot of grief work happens in these services,” DeCarlen said. “And a lot of joy and appreciation is lifted up in these services,” such as new adoptions.

“It parallels our own lives when we join a community. This community is really more than Eucharist. It is the body of Christ sharing life transitions with each other.”

The Perfect Paws Pet Ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church in Danvers, Massachusetts, hosted a meeting of the West Highland White Terrier Club in September.

DeCarlen began serving at All Saints a little over four years ago and initially found the pet services to be a bit overwhelming, but she quickly warmed to the ministry and asked parishioners to suggest ways of expanding it beyond the monthly services.

All Saints now collects pet food to donate to the local food pantry, and members minister to police and military K-9 handlers who have lost their dogs. About five times a year, the church hosts therapy dog workshops in the parish hall led by Weil and another parishioner.

Most dogs regardless of breed, can serve as therapy dogs as long as they aren’t skittish, can handle unfamiliar environments and can be trained to follow basic commands and negotiate around objects, such as a wheelchair or walker. The bond between dog and owner is the most important factor, Weil said.

“Nobody knows the dog better than the owner,” she said. “It’s always good to know that the person has a good relationship with the dog.”

Any organization can contact Perfect Paws or Dog B.O.N.E.S. and request a free visit from a therapy dog. Most of Perfect Paws’ therapy dogs spend time in schools, whether easing high school students’ stress before and during exams or helping younger students learn to read.

For the younger students, they are encouraged to read directly to the dog, an experience shown to have measurable benefits in improving reading skills.

The Rev. Marya DeCarlen and her dog, Blue, meet with a group at the library in Danvers, Massachusetts.

“They feel inhibited when reading in front of peers … but they don’t in front of the dog,” said DeCarlen, whose 13-year-old Labrador, Blue, is often on the receiving end of those children’s readings.

“That has been a wonderful experience, to see children not only read but to use expressions. They want the dog to have a reaction when they read,” DeCarlen said. As for Blue, “he just loves to be doted upon.”

Dogs are known for giving unconditional love, and Weil said that is one reason why reading to dogs is so beneficial. “The dog’s never going to say, ‘That’s the wrong word. You didn’t pronounce it right.’”

It’s like a theatrical performance, she added, with the children suspending their disbelief and reading as if the dog is really understanding the story.

The parishioners from All Saints who participate in the therapy dog ministry have become like a family, and they have supported each other in times of grief, particularly over the past year, during which time four of the dogs have died, Weil said.

That grief mirrors what many pet owners feel at the loss of longtime companions who, too, felt like part of the family, and this has been another motivation for All Saints in stepping up its outreach and its message of welcome.

Pets have “taken on a bigger importance in people’s lives, and when that happens you bring what’s important to you to church, whether it’s in your mind or heart or spirit,” DeCarlen said. To be a member of the body of Christ, she said, is to embrace a sense of purpose in those relationships while spreading compassion to others, whether they walk on two feet or four paws.

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

RIP: Chairperson of China’s National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 3:36pm

Elder Fu Xianwei, chair of the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, addresses Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his staff during a Feb. 22 meeting at the National Office of China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Shanghai, China. To Fu’s left are Gu Mengfei, TSPM’s associate secretary general and director of the CCC’s research department, and Elder Ou Enlin, director of overseas relations for the CCC/TSPM. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Elder Fu Xianwei, chairperson of the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Church in China and board chairperson of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, passed away in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 20, aged 74.

Fu’s deep conviction and productive service to the Lord was a powerful encouragement to Christians in China. His immensely hardworking for the cause of the Church in China with consistent adherence to the Three-Self principle was a role model and support for his fellow colleagues. The ardent love and care for the state and the church over the decades of his leadership has been exemplified through his commitment to the reconstruction of theological thinking and the advocacy of the indigenization and contextualization of the Church in China.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (REVELATION 14:13)

The Episcopal Church’s and the Chinese church’s relationship started with Bishop K.H. Ting, who trained in the Anglican tradition at Union Theological Seminary in New York, served as long-time principal of the board of directors of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, and in 1955 became the bishop of Zhejiang until the Cultural Revolution.

The funeral in remembrance of Elder Fu Xianwei will be hosted at Shanghai Longhua Funeral Parlor (No. 210 Caoxi Road, Shanghai) at 9 a.m. on Sept. 5.

The memorial service is to be held at Muen Church (No. 316 Middle Xizang Road, Shanghai) at 9:30am on Sept. 6.

South Sudanese bishop speaks out against corruption

Wed, 08/22/2018 - 11:03am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Diocese of Malek Bishop Peter Jon Mayom has written an open letter to church and government leaders, calling for an end to bribery and violence. In the letter, Mayom, condemns corruption and calls for all Christians, particularly leaders, to set examples of holiness.

Read the full article.

Diocese of Virginia to replace Bishop Johnston with provisional bishop for three years

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 5:31pm

Helen K. Spence, president of the Diocese of Virginia’s standing committee, sent a letter to the diocese on Aug. 20 announcing the committee’s decision to seek a provisional bishop for three years after Bishop Shannon Johnston steps down in November. Election of the provision bishop would take place at the diocese’s convention in November. The following is the test of Spence’s letter.

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Bishop Shannon Johnston has announced that he will resign as our Bishop Diocesan during our Annual Convention in November 2018, and he will fully retire on June 30, 2019. In his letter of August 3, Bishop Shannon called for “new vision and new energy for the church in our Diocese.” To create the best opportunity for that vision and energy, the Standing Committee is seeking a Bishop Provisional for election at the November convention, per General Convention Title III.13.1. We want to make all of you aware of the steps involved in this process, as we work for the good of our Diocese.

As stated in Bishop Shannon’s letter, we have been in communication with the Presiding Bishop’s Office to ensure a smooth transition. The process the Standing Committee will follow will be similar to what happens in a parish when a rector leaves, and an interim rector is appointed by the Vestry. In this case, the Standing Committee is working with the Presiding Bishop’s Office of Pastoral Development to identify individuals who would be willing to serve as our Bishop Provisional for approximately three years, with extensions to that time frame, if needed, to be voted on at Diocesan Convention. As with any process like this, confidentiality will be kept to preserve the privacy of all involved.

This month, we are working to prepare questions to ask of the prospective candidates. We have sought input from Diocesan staff, current and former Bishops, leadership of Diocesan bodies, and the Regional Deans and Presidents to help us formulate these questions. We are also reviewing documents on file at the diocesan offices, to assist in preparing for these interviews, which we plan to hold in September. Once we have completed interviews, and a review of all paperwork, we will present the name of one candidate for the Diocese to elect in November, similar to the way a Vestry would for a parish.

This election will be the final act of our Annual Convention. The Bishop Provisional will be an experienced Bishop who will have the canonical authority of a Bishop Diocesan, and who will partner with us in a thorough diocesan review to enable us to prepare for a healthy call for our next Bishop Diocesan.

Many have asked about the role of Bishop Susan Goff in the Diocese as we move forward. In the same way that an associate or assistant rector is not eligible to serve as interim of a parish after the rector leaves, we have discerned, in close consultation with Bishop Goff, the Presiding Bishop and a variety of wise advisors, that our Bishop Suffragan will serve the Diocese best by remaining our Suffragan. She will be an integral part of the new team of leadership of our Diocese and we are grateful for the gifts she will continue to bring.

We ask for your prayers, for this process and for all the individuals involved, as we undertake this work. The best interests of this Diocese are at the center of all we do.

In Christ’s Love,

Helen K. Spence, President
Standing Committee
Diocese of Virginia

Church of South India responds to flooding in Kerala

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 2:22pm

Editor’s note: The Diocese of New York has long-standing and strong ties to the Church of South India, and to the Christian community in India, and has launched a relief appeal

[Anglican Communion News Service] Members of the  Church of South India have been at the heart of the relief efforts after flooding devastated swathes of the south western state of Kerala. The dioceses of East Kerala and Malabar, in the eastern hilly areas of south India, along with parts of the Cochin diocese, remain affected. 

So far, about 350 have died in the floods, and more the 700,000 are displaced and living in relief camps around the region. The crisis began with a wave of monsoons, leading to swollen rivers. Eventually 35 of the 36 dams in the region broke, releasing nearly 700,000 liters of water per second, causing landslides, flooding homes and blocking roads.

Read the full article here.

 

Episcopalians to join 40-mile Solidarity Walk to immigrant detention facility in New Hampshire

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 11:53am

A few dozen people gather outside the Norris Cotton Federal Building in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Aug. 7 for one of the regular prayer vigils for immigrants checking in with federal authorities. Photo: New Hampshire Council of Churches

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians will join others in the New Hampshire faith community this month for a four-day Solidarity Walk for Immigrant Justice, tracing detained immigrants’ path from federal immigration enforcement offices in Manchester to a jail in Dover to raise awareness of immigrants’ plight and voice their support.

“We’re following on foot the path that people who are detained and taken to jail are themselves traveling,” said the Rev. Jason Wells, an Episcopal priest who serves as executive director of New Hampshire Council of Churches, one of the Solidarity Walk organizers.

This pilgrimage will begin Aug. 22 with a short prayer service at St. Anne-St. Augustin Catholic Church in Manchester, and the walk will kick off from the Norris Cotton Federal Building, where offices of U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement, or ICE, are located. The building also has been the site of regular prayer vigils scheduled for days when immigrants are known to be checking in with ICE, some fearing they will be detained or deported.

The Episcopal Church’s support for immigrants, including those facing deportation, was underscored last month by the 79th General Convention, which passed multiple resolutions on immigration issues after hundreds of bishops and deputies gathered for their own prayer service outside an immigration detention facility near Austin, Texas.

Organizers of the Solidary Walk in New Hampshire have invoked that example as they plan to gather at the end of their 40-mile journey outside the Stratford County jail, which has a contract with the federal government to hold immigration detainees.

“I think that the Gospel imperative is to work for the poor, the marginalized, to really point out injustice and work for justice,” said the Rev. Sarah Rockwell, a part-time priest at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Manchester and president of Granite State Organizing Project. “I see this as very much a part of living out a life of faith, and our faith should be consequential.”

Although Rockwell will not be available to participate in the Solidary Walk, others at Granite State Organizing Project have been involved in planning the walk. Theirs is an interreligious organization devoted to grassroots community advocacy, and it is one of several groups contributing to next week’s walk, including American Friends Service Committee.

At the frequent prayer vigils organized by the same groups, about 50 or so people gather outside the federal building in Manchester. They embark on a Jericho walk  – seven times around the building, often in silent prayer. More prayers and songs follow, as well as readings from various faith traditions’ scriptures.

During the vigils, some clergy offer to wait with the families of noncitizen immigrants who are checking in. The families typically don’t know if these will be routine visits to provide updates to authorities or if their loved ones suddenly will be told to return by a certain date with a plane ticket back to their native country, Wells said. Some have been taken straight to jail.

Most immigrants who the New Hampshire Council of Churches are supporting have been required to check in with ICE about once a month, a frequency that has increased since President Donald Trump took office, Wells said. Previously the check-ins may have happened only about once a year.

The Stratford County jail, one of six facilities in New England that hold immigration detainees for the federal government, also has seen an uptick in immigrant detainees in recent years to about 115 a day in 2018, according to the Concord Monitor.

Some of these immigrants came to the United States on work visas that have since expired, so they are trying to gain permanent residency status, Wells said. Others are asylum seekers or refugees or have temporary protected status because the federal government at some point determined it was unsafe for them to return to their home country.

Organizers of the Solidarity Walk say one goal is to draw attention to the prevalence of such immigration cases in upper New England.

“Many [Americans] do not understand the forces that drive people to flee their homelands, the complexities of the immigration system or the hardships faced by migrants,” Eva Castillo, vice president of the Granite State Organizing Project, said in an online announcement of the Solidarity Walk. “We hope to have positive and productive conversations with Granite Stators of all political persuasions along our journey.”

This is doubly important in a northern state that doesn’t normally get associated with immigration issues, Wells said.

“Among all of us there is a desire to keep this awareness in front of New Hampshire,” Wells said. “A lot of the news on immigration tends to focus on the border with Mexico, and we lose sight of the fact that these are New Hampshire families.”

The walk will be broken into segments of about three hours each, with the morning and afternoon segments totaling about 10 miles each day. About 50 people have signed up so far to walk at least one of the segments, and other volunteers will drive the same route in support vehicles.

The Solidarity Walk will conclude each days’ segments with events in towns along the way – Candia, Raymond and Lee – with walkers invited to camp overnight at churches that have volunteered their space.

In addition to raising awareness, participants in the walk want to bring detainees a direct message of support. Organizers are working on how to communicate that support to those inside the county jail as they plan a prayer vigil outside on Aug. 25.

Wells said he and others felt inspired by stories of the Episcopalians who on July 8 shouted, “Te vemos – we see you,” to the immigrant women being held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas.

If he has the opportunity, he hopes to offer similar words of support to the immigrants being held in the jail in Dover.

“That we see you, we see your humanity, we see that you are made in God’s image,” Wells said. “And even though you are in the jail, you are loved by God, you are loved by us – that we are here, that we have not forgotten you.”

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

Austin Ford, founder of Atlanta’s Emmaus House, dead at 89

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 10:46am

[Diocese of Atlanta] The Rev. Austin Ford, who lived and ministered in one of the city’s most deprived communities, died Saturday at his Grant Park, Georgia, home.

Ford, who was the founding rector of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Decatur, left the security of the fast-growing suburban Episcopal parish in 1967 to start Emmaus House, in Atlanta’s Peoplestown community.

Moving into a dilapidated clapboard house, Ford took his time getting to know the community.  He carefully listened to area residents and responded to their goals – growing the ministry to include an after-school program, once-a-month transportation to the state prison for families of inmates, chapel services, hot meals, and a poverty rights office.

Over three decades at Emmaus House Ford was a consistent and strident voice for welfare rights, neighborhood empowerment and racial justice.

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, said Ford was a priest who modeled Jesus’ preference for the poor and disenfranchised.

“Austin Ford was someone who believed and lived his faith shoulder to shoulder with people from all situations and circumstances,” Wright said. “He was a man and a priest who understood that Jesus wants His followers with the poor. His shoes will be hard to fill. His example changed minds, hearts and lives.”

Ford will be cremated. A time for a memorial service is yet to be determined. A.S. Turner & Sons Funeral Home and Crematory in Decatur is in charge of arrangements.

Pages