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British Columbia parishes grapple with summer wildfires’ aftermath

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 4:44pm

The following is the conclusion of a two-part story detailing the experience and aftermath of the B.C. summer wildfires from an Anglican perspective. You can read the first part here.

[Anglican Church of Canada] Though the height of the summer wildfire season in British Columbia may have passed, the efforts of communities to rebuild in its wake remain ongoing.

Anglicans residing within the Territory of the People have been on the front lines of devastation caused by the fires. Driving out to St. Luke’s Anglican Church in the Chilcoten area, the Rev. Kris Dobyns witnessed the scope of the damage firsthand.

“It was awful driving out there,” Dobyns said. “You could just see the burned trees on both sides … You could see maybe a chimney and a fire place, and the whole house just burned to ashes.

“We saw a place where there were six or seven cars just completely burned out … just devastating. It’s going to take years to recover.”

All residents in the area were affected by the large amounts of smoke that billowed into the air over a protracted period. The poor air quality could reach dangerous levels for weeks at a time, putting at particular risk those with respiratory health issues.

Meanwhile, the effect on livestock threatened the livelihood of ranchers, with many of the 35,000 cattle in fire-affected regions remaining unaccounted for.

“A lot of our folks who are ranchers are of course devastated,” episcopal commissary Ken Gray said.

“They’ve lost fencing, they’ve lost animals, they’ve lost grazing land, they’ve lost forest cover … In terms of the area the territory covers … the effect on ranchers and the effect on the forest industry is huge.

“That’s going to affect local economies, and it’s going to affect parish fiscal stability as well.”

In Kamloops, where Gray serves as dean of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, the city has experienced a significant increase in homelessness. Many have been displaced from their home communities, and Anglicans active in shelter ministry are expecting an increase in demand. Some workers have opted not to return, prompting a labour shortage in communities such as Williams Lake and Cache Creek.

The economic repercussions of the fires are prominent in the mind of the Rev. Jim White, a retired Anglican priest and non-Indigenous pastoral elder who sometimes provides ministry to the First Nations community in Lytton, as well as at an ecumenical parish in Logan Lake.

“My biggest concern right now is the number of small businesses that are going to survive the next year,” White said. He offered the example of Cache Creek Golf Course, which recently closed because not enough people could reach the golf course to provide the necessary revenue for it to stay in business.

“I am somewhat pessimistic that the businesses that are in existence today will be here a year from now,” he added.

In response, local Anglicans are making a push for residents to “buy local” in order to support small businesses in the area.

Community solidarity

At the peak of the fire, residents worked together to help each other out wherever they could. During the month of July, White’s son putting in 1,300 hours of volunteer hours as a volunteer firefighter along with his crew.

At another point, when the town of Ashcroft lost utilities, including electricity and phone service, his neighbour used a portable generator and extension cord to help people recharge their mobile phones.

“It’s things you don’t think of,” White said.

The Rev. Clara Plamondon brings prayer shawls from the Diocese of British Columbia during a visit to St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Kamloops, B.C. Photo by Rae Long

In the wake of the fire, affected communities have worked together to rebuild and persevere. The decreasing level of wildfires since summer has in its own way helped restore a greater sense of normalcy for residents.

“Anxiety levels are significantly reduced,” Gray said. “Air quality has significantly improved. Really, especially in the smaller communities, folks are getting back on their feet.”

Nevertheless, the emotional toll has affected many residents and prompted the creation of mutual support groups. In Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, Dobyns and her husband Keith have attended meetings as part of the 2017 Wildfire Recovery Mental Health Working Group, with pastors’ fellowships in both towns working to address mental health issues amidst the recovery.

Anglicans in other parts of the country have also come together in a variety of ways to provide aid for communities impacted by the wildfires. Gray said the Territory of the People has received donations totalling more than $35,000 from individuals and organizations such as the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, with the money being sent to clergy for use in their discretionary funds to help individuals resettle and rebuild.

A moving symbolic gesture came when Dobyns attended the recent provincial synod executive council as a delegate and saw more than 70 prayer shawls brought by a priest from Vancouver Island, whose parish had decided to make the shawls to help support the Territory of the People during the fires.

Taking six of the prayer shawls back to the cathedral, Dobyns distributed them at a joint annual worship service and potluck for the 100 Mile House and Williams Lake parishes. The shawls were received so enthusiastically that she planned to return and pick up more.

“People were so moved to receive those … It is so comforting to know that people have been praying for you, and to wrap yourself in what feels like a blanket of prayers,” Dobyns said.

‘New normal’

With the continued exacerbation of wildfire seasons due to climate change, B.C. communities are pondering how they might minimize further wildfire damage in the years to come.

Later this fall, St. Paul’s Cathedral in Kamloops will host a meeting of community leaders and care providers to examine lessons from this year’s fires and how they might incorporate them moving forward.

“Something like this is going to be the new normal, and we’re wondering what we can do now to ensure an effective and appropriate response next year,” Gray said.

“Both in Prince George and Kamloops, I think the community response was extremely good,” he added. “Folks mobilized very quickly and very effectively. But we’re going to have to organize not just for this year, but … for the foreseeable future. I think that’s worth noting.”

From Alaska to Zululand, Anglicans act ecumenically in the Season of Creation

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 2:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans around the world have taken part in a wide variety of events to mark this year’s Season of Creation, an ecumenical focus on the environment that ran from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4. The Season of Creation was originally proposed by the Ecumenical Patriarch to run from the Orthodox Church’s World Day of Prayer for Creation and ending on the Feast of St Francis. The idea was endorsed by the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2012; it was backed by Pope Francis in 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Anglicans and other Christian leaders demand action on climate change

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 2:08pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Five Anglican archbishops have joined other Christian leaders in calling for governments to implement the promises they made at the Paris Climate Change talks. Political leaders from 197 nations will gather in Bonn, Germany, in November for the next phase of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23); and the Christian leaders are urging them to “keep the promises they made in the Paris Agreement, to restore the natural balance.”

Read the entire article here.

EPPN: Defend Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 1:31pm

[Episcopal Public Policy Network policy alert] In the next year, the Secretary of Homeland Security must decide whether or not to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to approximately 320,000 individuals. TPS is a temporary immigration status provided to nationals of certain countries experiencing environmental disasters or armed conflict. TPS is granted when returning home – via departure or deportation – would place those nationals at risk, or if the foreign government’s ability to absorb the return of its nationals is compromised. TPS has been a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of individuals already in the United States when problems in a home country suddenly make return untenable.

Take Action to Protect TPS for 18 Months or As Long as Conditions Exist

Countries with current TPS designations include South Sudan, Nicaragua, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Syria, Nepal, Yemen and Somalia. The administration terminated TPS for Sudan last month. TPS holders receive protection from deportation and work authorization to support themselves while they remain in the U.S. Over the years, as conditions in their home countries have not improved, many TPS beneficiaries have stayed, with legal permission, and built lives in the U.S. Sending TPS beneficiaries back to the unstable conditions in their home countries presents grave concerns for families, our local economies, and the stability of receiving countries.

Policy passed by The Episcopal Church’s General Convention advocates for the designation of TPS for all immigrants fleeing for refuge from violence, environmental disaster, economic devastation, cultural abuse or other forms of abuse.

Use the Interfaith Toolkit to Defend TPS

Removal of Robert E. Lee from church’s name was just start of healing for Virginia congregation

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 5:52pm

Grace Episcopal Church’s new name is seen in a banner in front of the church in Lexington, Virginia, though a more official sign is still in the process of being replaced. Photo: Doug Cumming

[Episcopal News Service] Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington, Virginia, has begun growing into its new name. Its website homepage is updated.  The stationery is new. And perhaps more consequentially, the annual stewardship appeal has been sent to members under the new church name.

A month ago, the vestry voted to remove Robert E. Lee from the name of the church he once attended, changing it from R.E. Memorial Church back to its previous Grace. That move ended two years of sometimes tense debate over the Confederate general’s legacy, both as a prominent member of the congregation’s past and a symbol of racial hatred in contemporary America.

At least one couple has formally left the congregation in protest of the name change. At the same time, the congregation faces a change in leadership: The Rev. Tom Crittenden announced this month he plans to step down as rector after Nov. 5.

Despite the recent upheaval, some parish leaders who had disagreed over whether to remain as R.E. Lee Memorial now express a mutual desire to move forward together as Grace Episcopal.

“There’s still some hurt feelings, but [the congregation] seems to be pulling together,” senior warden Woody Sadler told Episcopal News Service this week by phone.

Sadler had long opposed the name change and voted against it Sept. 18, partly because the vestry hadn’t polled the full congregation.

The vestry’s 7-5 vote adopted a change recommended in April by a Discovery and Discernment Committee of vestry members and parishioners. A more recent and direct catalyst for the Lexington vestry’s decision was the Aug. 14 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hate groups had gathered in Charlottesville to “unite the right” in support of a Lee statue that the city had slated for removal. Clashes with anti-racism counter-protesters left one of the counter-protesters dead.

Doug Cumming, one of the Lexington vestry members who supported removal of Lee from the church’s name, said he thinks resolving that issue last month has put the congregation on the path to spiritual renewal.

“We’re coming back together. We’re now in a period of real healing and reconciliation,” Cumming said in an interview with ENS, and he already senses that people who had shied away from the church during the debate over the name have started returning to Sunday services.

The changes have been difficult, though, for those who felt the congregation’s identity was closely tied to Lee.

“I think it just hurts some people so much to see the name changing and to see things happening so fast,” Cumming said.

As fast as change is coming, it is hardly complete. The website that advertises services at Grace Episcopal Church is still hosted on the domain releechurch.org. A new domain is in the works, Cumming said.

The sign in front of R.E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, Virginia. Photo: Doug Cumming

Grace is the name on the outdoor sign listing worship times and on a banner advertising an upcoming bazaar. But the main sign out front has not yet been replaced and still welcomes passersby to “R.E. Lee Memorial Church.” Cumming, as chair of the church’s History Committee, presented the lowest bid on a replacement sign to the vestry at its most recent meeting, Oct. 16. The cost will be $930.

Sadler said he signed off on that expense the following day. The new sign should be installed in a few weeks.

Deeper change in the congregation may take time and require more than a new name and sign. Crittenden is personally well liked, Cumming said, but his resignation reflected the congregation’s desire for new leadership as it looks to the future. Its Discovery and Discernment Committee’s report identified “a loss of confidence in the ability of the current rector to lead the parish forward.”

Diocese of Southwest Virginia Bishop Mark Bourlakas met with the congregation, vestry and Crittenden in the months leading up to Crittenden’s decision to resign, and Bourlakas plans to attend the November vestry meeting to discuss calling an interim rector while Grace recruits someone new to the role permanently.

The Discovery and Discernment Committee also singled out the vestry as part of the leadership “vacuum” in the congregation, including but not limited to its role in the debate over the church’s name. The committee recommended the vestry focus on coordinating its vision, mission and long-range planning and communicate better with parishioners.

The vestry will have several new faces leading those efforts starting in January. The congregation on Oct. 15 elected five new vestry members to the 12-member body, out of 10 people who were interested in serving, an unusually high number, Cumming said. (He was one of the vestry members who chose not to return when their terms expire at the end of this year.)

The new vestry members appear to support the name change, Cumming said, but it is more difficult to gauge the change’s effect on the larger congregation. Cumming sensed increased attendance since the name change, due to the return of families who had stopped attending. Sadler, on the other hand, said he hadn’t noticed Sunday attendance swell in the past month.

The Oct. 15 service was well attended, but it also was unique: The congregation combined its 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services for a special joint service that will be repeated every three months.

“There’s a lot of reconciliation and healing that has to go on,” said Bourlakas, who had encouraged changing the church name. He told ENS he is pleased by the progress. “People seem to be trying to work together. I know it hasn’t pleased everybody but there seems to be some acceptance and voices for moving forward.”

Cumming, despite voting to remove Lee from the church name, doesn’t think the church is erasing history. His committee is discussing other ways of highlighting Lee’s historic role.

While serving in Lexington as president of Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee University, the former Confederate general spent the last five years of his life, until his death in 1870, helping the struggling congregation survive. There is no record, however, of why the congregation chose to rename the church for Lee in 1903.

One suggestion received by the History Committee was to rename the parish hall after Lee, but Cumming said the committee also is looking for ways to highlight other historical figures’ ties to the church.

An interpretative historical marker might include info on Lee, but also on Jonathan Daniels, a civil rights worker who was killed in 1965 while saving the life of a black teenage girl. Daniels attended R.E. Lee Memorial Church while a student at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. He was class valedictorian when he graduated in 1961.

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

What would happen if Episcopalians and their church put Jesus at the center – really?

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 5:32pm

Diocese of Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen presides at Holy Eucharist on Oct. 18 as the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council opens its Oct. 18-21 meeting. The Rev. Geof Smith, the Episcopal Church’s chief operating officer and a deacon, assisted during the service. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] It would seem obvious that Episcopalians have Jesus at the center of their lives and that the Episcopal Church centers on Jesus. Yet, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenged the church’s Executive Council Oct. 18 to deeply reflect on whether the church and its members are truly answering the call of Christ during these times of challenges from outside and inside the church.

Curry’s remarks came during the opening session of council’s Oct. 18-21 meeting. The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies and Executive Council vice chair, joined him in that challenge. Council spent nearly 90 minutes listening to and discussing Curry’s challenge. The members and staff will continue that work Oct. 19, albeit from a different angle, in a session Jennings will lead on council committee reorganization.

Curry acknowledged that recently released data from the 2016 parochial reports from each congregation and diocese show that membership in the Episcopal Church continues to decline. The pace has slowed some, he said, but the trajectory remains downward. There were 6,473 domestic parishes and missions in 2016 compared with 6,510 in 2015. The number of baptized members who were active in 2016 was 1,745,156, compared with 1,779,335 in 2015.

If it doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not Christianity. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry #episcopal #excoun pic.twitter.com/vWXppeMPaq

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 18, 2017

While it may be tempting to despair and search for ways to return to a church that Episcopalians believe existed in the past, Curry said, he believes that if the church concentrates on making and forming disciples who truly live the way of Jesus “we won’t have time to worry about Average Sunday Attendance; that will take care of itself.”

“If we continue to navel gaze, then we won’t survive, and probably shouldn’t,” he said. “If our concern is being the church of the 1950s, maintaining an institutional reality for the sake of the institution, maybe we don’t need to continue.”

But, if Episcopalians are concerned about keeping Jesus at the center of their lives, then “that’s church that has a reason to exist and will have a future.”

The presiding bishop asked the council to consider the story told in Acts 16:6-10, known as the Macedonian Call. Paul, “having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia,” according to the passage, has a vision one night of a man pleading with him to come help him and his friends in Macedonia. Once there, Paul meets and converts Lydia, her household and many others, and plants many churches, on what is now known as his second missionary journey.

Curry insisted that the Episcopal Church might be experiencing its own Macedonian Call. The attendance data he cited is “either a cause for despair or a call to go to Macedonia.” The despair comes from feeling as if the church is blocked from resuscitating “the church we thought we once were.”

“Macedonia” needs Episcopalians, he said, in a time when “there are voices in our culture that masquerade as Christians.” However, those voices “do not even show basic humanitarian concern and care,” much less echoing Jesus’s message of love and forgiveness.

House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing makes a point Oct. 18 as council members and others discuss ways to ensure that Jesus is always at the center of their lives and of the church. Council member Russ Randle and Barbara Miles, chairwoman of the Joint Standing Commission on Program, Budget and Finance are among those listening. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“I really believe that the way of Jesus, the way that is gracious, kind, loving, just, good – that way and that Jesus – is what the world is hungry for and God help us, we’re getting a Macedonian Call.”

When Episcopalians answer that call, they will be a church reoriented around the gospel in the way, as in most congregations, the gospel is processed into the midst of the people and they turn to face the person who proclaims it, the presiding bishop said.

Curry acknowledged that his description of the world in need of authentic Christianity was an echo of what Jennings evoked for the council in her remarks earlier in the session. Jennings reviewed a litany of what she has said is a “difficult season for Christians in the United States who are committed to doing justice, protecting God’s creation and safeguarding the dignity of every human being.”

President House of Deputies of the #episcopal church @gaycjen shares how governance done well supports witness & mission #excoun pic.twitter.com/AYr8HToSaP

— Frank Logue (@franklogue) October 18, 2017

“The situation feels unstable, and to many Americans, it is downright frightening,” Jennings said.

“I am encouraged that many Christians, and many of you here this morning, are mobilizing to resist the onslaught of policies and pronouncements – and tweets – that run counter to our gospel values and our vision of the kingdom of God,” she said. “People of faith have played important roles in opposing several unsuccessful attempts to take health care away from millions of Americans, and we are also committed to defeating the current attempt to deport hundreds of thousands of young ‘dreamers’ who were brought to this country without documentation as children.”

Jennings anchored that advocacy in the public policy actions taken by the General Convention, and she praised the support of the Office of Government Relations in Washington D.C., for helping mobilize the Episcopal Church, especially when legislative remedies are sought.

“We are working hard; the issues come at us fast these days. But we are organized, we are mobilizing more quickly than in the past, and we are resisting for the sake of the most vulnerable people in our communities and our congregations,” she said.

Episcopalians must “counter an impoverished and vindictive interpretation of our faith with what my friend here calls the loving, liberating and life-giving message of the Jesus Movement,” Jennings said, referring to Curry.

Given the gravity of what Jennings described, she admitted that council might think it odd when, on Oct. 19, she leads a session on the group’s committee structure.

“Now, I realize that the kingdom of God is not like a committee meeting, or at least I hope not,” she said. “But the work we do here to fulfill our canonical responsibility – which is to provide board-level oversight and direction to the work of the DFMS as defined by General Convention – makes it possible for the rest of the church do its work. In our tradition, governance does not stand in opposition to mission or even detract from mission. Governance, done efficiently, transparently and collaboratively, makes mission and witness, prophetic witness, possible.”

The rest of the meeting

After the opening plenary on Oct. 18, council spent the rest of the day and the morning of Oct. 19 meeting in its five committees. Later on Oct. 19, council members will get an update on the recent work of Episcopal Relief & Development, and they will have the Jennings-led discussion on possible ways to reorganize their work on council. Committee meetings will also take up most of Oct. 20 and, on Oct. 21, the committees will each report to the full body, proposing resolutions for the full body to consider.

The Oct. 18-21 meeting is taking place at the Maritime Institute Conference Center.

Some council members are tweeting from the meeting using #ExCoun.

The Executive Council carries out the programs and policies adopted by the General Convention, according to Canon I.4 (1). The council comprises 38 members – 20 of whom (four bishops, four priests or deacons, and 12 lay people) are elected by General Convention and 18 (one clergy and one lay) by the nine provincial synods for six-year terms – plus the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies. In addition, the vice president of the House of Deputies, secretary, chief operating officer, treasurer and chief financial officer have seats and voice but no vote.

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

U.K. Christians and Jews celebrate 75 years of interfaith relations

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 12:04pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, has used a speech to the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) to talk about how people encounter what he termed “the other.” Respect for the other was needed for people of distinct faiths to engage in encounters with one another, he said. And he argued that today’s mass migrations were once again bringing people together who might not otherwise have met, saying: “Neutral territory and public space have become contested once again in ways that are all too familiar to Jewish people in history and today.”

Read the entire article here.

New primate and leadership team for Church of North India

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 11:59am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishop of Jabalpur, Prem Singh, has been elected as the new moderator and Anglican primate of the united Church of North India. The church’s recent synod also elected a new deputy moderator: Bishop Probal Kanto Dutta of the Diocese of Durgapur. A new treasurer, Jayant Agarwal, was also elected. Alwan Masih will continue in his role as general secretary.

Read the entire article here.

The crisis continues for Puerto Rico, and so do efforts toward relief, and then, recovery

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 4:39pm

A message written on top of a building is seen from the air during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria near Humacao, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 11. Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal clergy and congregation members are resuming church services and school classes when they can and how they can, despite the vast devastation in Puerto Rico almost a month after Hurricane Maria swept through Sept. 20.

It was the strongest storm the island has faced since before the Great Depression, a Category 4 hurricane that spewed up to 40 inches of rain in some places in one day, whereas Houston, Texas, saw 32 inches in three days from Hurricane Harvey in late August, according to the Weather Channel and the National Hurricane Center.

Almost a month after Maria, Puerto Ricans are still in crisis mode.

Forty-five deaths have been reported so far related to the storm, and residents in the northern part of the island have no clean water to drink so they are drinking contaminated water in nearby rivers, according to Episcopal Relief & Development. About 90 percent of the island was still without electricity as of Oct. 11, three weeks after Maria hit. In comparison, 22 percent of the homes and businesses on the Virgin Islands are without power from Maria.

“The lives of so many people have been turned upside down,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s senior vice president of programs in the latest Hurricane Maria report. “This is a humanitarian crisis that will affect many people in the years to come.”

A wooden cross is seen on the door of a home damaged by Hurricane Maria near the municipality of Morovis, outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 10. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Coordinating donations with local agencies to get basic supplies to those who most need it is a logistics challenge that Episcopal Relief & Development is working on daily, along with many others. Volunteers are organizing shipments of water and food to residents of Maricao, Ponce and other remote areas. The organization is planning on supplying water-purification systems to those isolated communities.

Communication is still dicey and is expected to remain that way for several more months. Satellite phones are helping diocesan members communicate with each other, church partners, emergency services and communities.

Social media has been the most reliable way to communicate. The Episcopal Cathedral School in San Juan closed like most institutions, and parents didn’t have to pay September fees. The K-12 school reopened for classes Oct. 10 and restarted its after-school program Oct. 16. Like most places, the school still has no electrical power, so students are advised to bring, if they can, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, bottled water and insect repellent spray. They are allowed to wear Bermuda-style pants and sleeveless shirts and won’t have any tests for the time being and limited homework.

Also on Oct. 16, the school counselor announced that college admission deadlines have been extended for both Puerto Rico and mainland U.S. colleges. “I hope that this serves as a means of reassurance that we will continue to have a successful academic year,” said Karen Santiago Garcia, guidance counselor.

On Oct. 15, the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales Maldonado, bishop of the Diocese of Puerto Rico, celebrated Holy Eucharist at Misión San Gabriel Arcángel in Humacao on the east side of the island.

Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado leads church members in an Oct. 15 celebration of Holy Eucharist at Misión San Gabriel Arcángel in Humacao on the east side of the island. Photo: Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado via Facebook

“We cry and laugh together. We discovered the strength of the Lord in our new project to lift and build,” Morales said in a Facebook post, as translated by the social media site.

The bishop has been working with Xavier Castellanos, the Episcopal Relief & Development representative who’s onsite to lend his expertise, to mobilize church partners as they continue to assess the needs of different areas of the island, and to especially send help and food to the more remote mountainous regions. The organization sent emergency support in advance of Hurricane Maria in order to help the diocese provide assistance quickly.

Meanwhile, back in the continental United States, people with family and friends in Puerto Rico are still worrying about them.

The Rev. Gladys Rodriguez of Church of the Incarnation in Oviedo, Florida, has been able to speak only briefly a few times with her husband, Victor Rivera Gonzalez, who is in Puerto Rico. They have homes in both places, and before the storm, she’d travel back and forth. Their house in the Guaynabo area of the island is made of cement and held up well, but their roof is damaged. Gonzalez had stocked up on water and was able to share it with neighbors. “He has been eating canned food. He has no electricity. There is no communication with the center of the island,” Rodriguez said in an email.

One of Rodriguez’s church members in Florida lost contact with a relative in Ponce who needed cash, food, water and medicines. Eventually, that relative found someone to drive through the hazardous roads to help her. “Everyone is in desperate need for cash, water, electricity, food and medicines,” Rodriguez said. When air travel becomes easier, probably by the end of October, her husband plans to fly to her in Oviedo.

Lynn Hendricks, president of the National Altar Guild Association based in Birmingham, Alabama, built Eucharist kits for Puerto Rico. One of her fellow church members planned to fly his plane to the island to deliver generators, water and other supplies for the relief effort and offered to take the kits along.

“He said transportation is a problem on the island, and he was being met so wasn’t sure if he would be able to deliver them personally, but he would see the diocese was contacted and told where they could pick them up if he wasn’t able to hand deliver them,” Hendricks said in an email to Episcopal News Service.

Misión San Gabriel Arcángel in Humacao, southeast of San Juan and near the eastern coast, hosted services for Episcopalians on Oct. 15. Photo: the Rt. Rev. Rafael Morales Maldonado via Facebook

The Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of New York, held a service for the victims of natural disasters in the Caribbean and Mexico on Oct. 7, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. The hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico was, sadly, one the latest in a series of natural disasters that have, in just over a month, visited “unspeakable ruin upon Texas, Florida, the Caribbean (especially the Virgin Islands and Cuba), Mexico, and now Puerto Rico,” Dietsche said in his advance announcement of the service.

“Countless people in our diocese have been personally affected by these storms. Indeed, members of my own staff have lived through harrowing days in the last week waiting for word from missing family members,” he said. “I know that they represent thousands of New Yorkers who have carried the same fears for those they love.”

People can help by donating to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund, which will help partners reach the vulnerable communities devastated by the recent tropical storms.

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is also a journalist and editor based in New York City. Reach her at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com.

Anglicans reflect on summer’s devastating wildfires in British Columbia

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:43pm

Fire rages in the distance behind the historic Anglican church of St. John at the Latin Gate, located on the Ashcroft Reserve, during the peak of the British Columbia wildfire season in July. Photo: Anglican Church of Canada

[Anglican Church of Canada] This summer’s wildfire season was the worst-ever recorded in British Columbia’s history. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes, hundreds of buildings were destroyed, and much of the province’s livestock was put at risk. As of Sept. 28, more than 100 wildfires were still burning across the province.

Much of the devastation impacted Anglicans residing within the Territory of the People. For some, the threat of the encroaching fires forced the evacuation of friends and neighbours, while others were made to flee and leave their own homes. At the height of the evacuations, many Anglican clergy and lay people provided assistance and pastoral care to evacuees.

“One way or another, every single parish in our territory was affected,” said the Very Rev. Ken Gray, currently serving as episcopal commissary during the sabbatical of Bishop Barbara Andrews.

Experience of evacuated parishes

In certain parishes, particularly 100 Mile House, Alexis Creek, and Williams Lake, residents were evacuated as the fire threatened buildings and parishioners’ homes. Meanwhile, major centres such as Kamloops and Prince George took in large numbers of evacuees.

The Revs. Kris and Keith Dobyns—who share positions serving St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in 100 Mile House and St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Williams Lake, as well as St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Alexis Creek—were among those those evacuated in July. Days after the fires began near their home in 100 Mile House, Kris received a warning from fire volunteers going door-to-door that she might have to leave.

“About 45 minutes before the evacuation, all of this black smoke started billowing in … I live downtown, and it looked pretty ominous,” she recalled. “My neighbours were out and they all decided to leave. They had ash falling in their backyards.”

Making the decision to evacuate, Dobyns packed and left a note with her name and phone number on her front door. She stayed with parishioners just outside the evacuation zone on a Sunday night before leaving early Monday morning. After meeting up with Keith, who had been away visiting their grandson in Ontario, they drove to stay with their son and his family in Abbotsford, B.C.

Two weeks later, officials re-opened 100 Mile for residents to return, and the couple returned home. But when fire threatened the surrounding areas of Elephant Hill and Canim Lake, Kris ended up leaving for Abbotsford for a few more days on the advice of Bishop Andrews.

“It was just so smoky and there had been more evacuations on both sides of us,” Dobyns said. “Our bishop was visiting to provide pastoral care and all these other evacuations had happened, and she looked at me and said, ‘You need a break.’”

During that time, members of the Canim Lake Band were themselves evacuated following a lightning strike and ended up in 100 Mile.

Partnering with the Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre—which is located next to St. Timothy’s—to help care for evacuees, Anglicans joined band members for a potluck attended by Bishop Andrews, during which they brought food and other items such as clothing.

“We have a free store at our church that can be opened at any point,” Dobyns said. “So we opened that up for people who needed clothing or blankets, because they had just had to leave in the middle of the night with no warning.”

Providing care to evacuees

In larger urban centres where many of those evacuated ended up, Anglican clergy were on the frontlines of helping evacuees.

The Rev. Isabel Healy-Morrow, regional dean for Kamloop-South Rivers, spent time at two areas set up by authorities to receive people evacuated from their homes in communities such as 100 Mile House, Clinton, Ashcroft, and Cache Creek. One was the Kamloops Powwow Grounds, where a cluster of tents and travel trailers had sprung up.

“I would go down and sit and visit with families, drink coffee with them, play with the children, and give them someone to vent their anxieties to,” Healy-Morrow said. “Those in the ranching industry were consumed with anxiety about their livestock.”

With a background in farming and ranching, Healy-Morrow was able to converse with fleeing ranchers about the evacuation of cattle and other livestock. Many horses were evacuated and taken to the Kamloops Exhibition Grounds and nearby farms.

For the evacuated people themselves, many had left quickly and been compelled to leave behind essentials such as prescriptions and clean clothing. At a second, indoor reception area, the Interior Community Savings Arena, hundreds of cots were set up, while provincial Emergency Social Services provided food, clothing, toiletries, and other benefits.

At the arena, Healy-Morrow encountered a group of First Nations elders from the coastal community of Bella Coola, who were unable to home after a Vancouver conference due to the Hanceville wildfire blocking the road from Williams Lake.

“There was no indication as to when it might be safe to travel,” she recalled. “I was able to provide a pastoral presence, hug people, [and] hand out water and snacks and pamphlets showing the location of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where evacuees were welcome to drop in and rest, pray, or talk.”

Healy-Morrow also visited evacuees who had been admitted to the emergency room at Royal Inland Hospital after experiencing cardiac and breathing issues, due to the cumulative effects of stress and poor air quality resulting from smoke, ash, and particulate matter—a particular health risk for those suffering from conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“They were glad of a smile, a hug, someone to sit by their bed and talk, pray if requested, and bring them coffee and snacks,” she said.

“The pastoral presence of the clergy was appreciated by the evacuees, and it was clear that a smile and a hug went a long way to those who were frantic with anxiety over the possible loss of their homes and assets.”

Though the wildfires have subsided since their summer peak, residents in affected communities now find themselves dealing with the aftermath of the destruction.

ThisI is the first installment of a two-part story detailing the experience and aftermath of the B.C. summer wildfires from an Anglican perspective. Visit the Anglican Church of Canada website later this week for the conclusion.

Communiqué from the Council of the Church in East Asia bishop’s meeting

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] From Oct. 11 to 16, twenty-eight Anglican archbishops and bishops of the Council of the Church in East Asia, including the Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, met in Yangon, Myanmar, with the theme “Living and Sharing Jesus-Shaped Life” from Colossians 2:6, hosted by the Rev. Stephen Than Myint Oo, archbishop and primate of the Church of the Province of Myanmar. Joining them were their spouses and clergy who are members of the executive committee of the council. The delegates were from Japan, Myanmar, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan and Australia.

Read the entire story here.

Church of England anti-slavery initiative wins government backing

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:24pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May has given her backing to the Church of England’s new anti-slavery program. The Clewer Initiative was launched Oct. 17, at Lambeth Palace, the London home and headquarters of the archbishop of Canterbury. “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society,” May said. “I value the work that the Clewer Initiative will be doing to enable the Church of England dioceses and wider church networks to develop strategies to tackle modem slavery.”

Read the entire story here.

Former bishop of Chester implicated in abuse allegations

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 2:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Cheshire Constabulary – the regional police force with responsibility for the area of the Church of England’s diocese of Chester – has published a report detailing abuse allegations against Bishop Hubert Whitsey, the former bishop of Chester. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987. Today, the police said that if he was still alive, he would have been formally spoken to in relation to 10 of the 13 separate allegations made against him. Police inquiries began after the diocese of Chester passed concerns to the police.

Read the entire article here.

Atlanta bishop joins honor guard for fallen Green Beret

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 11:45am

From right, Episcopal lay Chaplain Barbara Pendergrast, Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright and Episcopal Chaplain the Rev. Donna S. Mote join an honor guard Oct. 16 at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport to greet the remains of Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

[Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta] Bishop Robert C. Wright on Oct. 16 joined Episcopal chaplains the Rev. Donna S. Mote and Barbara Pendergrast at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport to welcome the remains of Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio.

Johnson is one of four U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers killed Oct. 4 in Niger when a joint US-Nigerien patrol was attacked.

Wright, who was at the airport on a previously scheduled visit, said he was honored to be part of the ceremony, an ongoing welcome for deceased service members regularly conducted by a volunteer group of Delta Airlines employees accompanied by airport chaplains.

“Even Jesus marveled at the discipline and dedication of those who wear a uniform,” said Wright, who served for five years in the U.S. Navy. “We owe our service men and women much more than occasional moments of silence and our prayers.”

The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is part of the Interfaith Airport Chaplaincy (IAC) at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) that was founded in 1980 and throughout the intervening years has provided inter-religious emotional and spiritual care to passengers and employees at the world’s busiest airport. In 2016 104 million passengers traveled through ATL, an average of more than 275,000 daily. ATL is also the largest single site of employment in Georgia with over 63,000 employees.

Lay people of the Diocese of Atlanta were among the original chaplains of the IAC. Mote was assigned as Episcopal chaplain to ATL by Wright in November 2013. Since January 2014, Barbara Pendergrast, a board-certified chaplain endorsed by the Episcopal Church, has volunteered with the IAC.

Along with three other IAC chaplains, Mote and Pendergrast, at the invitation of Delta Airlines, accompany military remains as they terminate in or transit through ATL on Delta. On average, Delta handles two service members’ remains daily in Atlanta. The chaplains bear witness to the dignified transfer of the remains and accompany the official military escorts throughout their time at ATL.

The Delta Honor Guard renders honors to the fallen who pass through ATL under the direction of Coordinator Brian J. McConnell Sr. a 35-year veteran of Delta who has overseen the Honor Guard for 12 years and handled the remains of some 6,000 US military personnel. The Delta Honor Guard members are volunteers from work areas across the company; most of them are veterans, have a child or sibling currently serving, or both.

— Don Plummer is media and community relations director for the Diocese of Atlanta and attends St. Teresa’s Episcopal Church in Acworth, Georgia.

Seminary of the Southwest helps smooth the path to becoming a military chaplain

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 4:44pm

The Rev. Nathan Ferrel, a chaplain in the U.S. Navy, was commissioned April 23, 2017. Photo: Office of the Bishop for Armed Forces and Federal Ministries

[Episcopal News Service] Joshua Woods first felt the calling while he ministered to hospice patients in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Many patients were military veterans and spouses. As he counseled them, Woods, a lay chaplain, heard what an impact military chaplains made in their lives.

That’s when Woods, now 34, knew he wanted to become a military chaplain. Such a chaplain is a clergy member who provides spiritual leadership, counseling and religious services for an institution other than a parish, such as a prison, university, hospital or branch of the armed forces.

But the process to become a military chaplain specifically is tough. Woods knew of no seminary with a military chaplaincy concentration, and there are so many requirements from both the church and military that it can be a tedious and frustrating path to navigate.

“One of the reasons it was a long and winding road for me was because I was doing it without guidance,” Woods said, although he did have help from the Rev. Dave Scheider, a now-retired U.S. Army chaplain of 25 years and a faculty member of Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Woods is a senior at that Episcopal seminary now, but those coming after him should have it easier. On Sept. 12, Seminary of the Southwest announced the launch of a military chaplaincy concentration for its master of divinity degree. It’s the first of its kind among Episcopal seminaries.

The seminary didn’t create this concentration from scratch, said Eric Scott, the seminary’s communications and marketing director. For 15 years, Seminary of the Southwest has been the only Episcopal seminary that offers an accredited master’s degree in health for students to become licensed professional counselors, Scott said. It’s a clinical degree, completely separate from the religious world.

Retired Rear Admiral Don Muchow (left) and two military recruiters dine together during the Sept. 12 event announcing the new military chaplaincy concentration at Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. Photo: Seminary of the Southwest

“Because of these counseling classes, and because a large part of what a military chaplain does in practice is the mental health counseling, the pastoral side, we’re able to offers some of those topic-specific elective classes, such as these counseling classes, for dealing with PTSD, addiction and recovery — all the things we know soldiers are dealing with,” Scott said.

Seminarians on the military chaplaincy track will take the same required courses as their master of divinity peers, while using their elective courses for the concentration.

It also helps that the seminary is fewer than 100 miles from three of the country’s largest military bases, where seminarians can do their required field work at nearby parishes that support the military and their families: the U.S. Army’s Fort Hood in Killeen and the U.S. Air Force’s Lackland and Randolph bases.

The Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries, visited the Austin campus when the program was officially launched. He provides ecclesiastical supervision for 130 Episcopal military chaplains on the federal payroll and would love to double that number if he had enough priests trained and called to the ministry. He sees the growth in specialized ministries as a trend in the Episcopal Church.

“The M.Div. military track is groundbreaking, and it’s the wave of the future in our church, because we’ve always known that everybody does not feel called specifically to parish ministry,” Wright said, recalling his visit. He applauds Seminary of the Southwest, “not only for acknowledging other calls but also for creating a way for us to pursue them.”

The Rev. Hope Benko, director of enrollment, and the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright, bishop suffragan for the armed forces and federal ministries, attended the Sept. 12 announcement event at Seminary of the Southwest. Photo: Seminary of the Southwest

These seminarians receive training in suicide prevention, marriage and relationship counseling and ministering to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction issues and more kinds of crisis. The degree also entails field work in Veterans Affairs hospitals and other medical facilities.

There’s a shortage of Episcopalian chaplains in the military, where spiritual guidance and counseling is needed for those who don’t fall in line with more conservative beliefs, Scheider said. He oversees three of the seminary’s graduate programs designed for laity and clergy in counseling, chaplaincy and spiritual formation. Scheider will mentor the military chaplaincy students.

“The ability to minister to everybody in the units who fall all across the political and theological spectrum is so challenging. That’s really hard to do, and that’s what we want them to be formed to do,” Scheider said.

He wants chaplains to enter the military equipped to master the political culture and pressures, such as being able to counsel the young service people, often minorities, who join in the lower ranks to get out of poverty. Chaplains also must gain the respect of higher-ranking officers, who tend to be more conservative, Sheider said.

There’s an increase of sexual minorities in the military, but a decrease in chaplains from denominations that are more accepting of their beliefs and lifestyles, he said. Throughout the week when chaplains are not leading services, they counsel people going through serious issues, and even though they’re not officially mental health counselors, they might be the most available members in the unit.

The Rev. Dave Scheider, the Rt. Rev. Carl Wright and the Rev. David Peters, an alumnus of Seminary of the Southwest and U.S. Army chaplain, attended the Sept. 12 announcement event at the seminary. Photo: Seminary of the Southwest

“All they have to do is go up to a chaplain and say, ‘Hey do you have a minute,’” Scheider said, and the service member can expect complete confidentiality, even if there’s suicidal intent. Chaplains are considered clergy, not medical professionals, and therefore are not subject to the same exceptions to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) rules, as well as state exceptions, that require or permit disclosure of patients’ serious and imminent thoughts of harming themselves. These rules, requirements and exceptions, along with the liability involved, can be tricky, but the goal is to keep the person seeking help safe, and to build enough trust to do that.

“Chaplains are extremely safe for service members to just lay open their heart and not experience any consequences,” Sheider said.

In his last decade of active military service, Scheider specialized on helping couples who’d had affairs, a portion of whom marry young to get out of the barracks and receive benefits. He earned extra counseling degrees and a marriage and family therapy license to better do that.

“All couples need to have that level of support and not be discriminated against, and we’re one of the few denominations that encourage our chaplains to provide that kind of support to same-sex couples,” he said.

Above all, Sheider and Woods agree that a military chaplain needs to be a priest first and a military service member second. That’s why a firm grounding in the seminary is so important.

Until now, there has been no one specific route within an Episcopal seminary for students who want training to become military chaplains rather than serve a parish. The Episcopal Church does have a program for seminarians to become “chaplain candidates.” They enter the reserves for training during their summers between their junior and senior seminary years. Those chaplain candidates continue training and drilling as reservists until they finish their mandatory parish experience time (up to two years), according to the Rev. Leslie Nuñez Steffensen, canon to the bishop of armed forces and federal ministries.

Interested seminarians or clergy must enter the U.S. military’s chaplain-recruitment process and, at a certain point, receive their denomination’s so-called ecclesiastical endorsement.

The Rev. Todd Delaney is a chaplain in the U.S. military, performing services no matter where he’s stationed. Photo: Office of the bishop for armed forces and federal ministries

Some people were in the military first, and then left to get ordained and their chaplaincy training at a seminary. Others were priests first, and then entered the military. The U.S. Army, for instance, outlines three of the main hurdles: receive ecclesiastical endorsement, earn a baccalaureate degree, and be a full-time graduate student at seminary or theological school.

For Woods, he first had to discover that he wanted to be an Episcopalian. He had previously worked as a lay chaplain and an assistant pastor of a non-denominational church. Before that, he graduated from Vanderbilt University’s seminary with a master’s degree in theological studies, and was following the teaching of his childhood church, Assemblies of God. But as Woods grew older, he found that denomination limiting, and he loves the openness to questioning and inclusiveness of the Episcopal Church.

He was convinced when he saw an almost equal number of Republican and Democrat political bumper stickers during the Obama-Romney presidential election in the parking lot of his first visit to an Episcopal church, St. Simon’s on the Sound in Fort Walton Beach.

Chaplains must be comfortable with diversity and multiculturalism to do well in the military, Scheider said. That same kind of welcoming, accepting spirit is what drew Woods to the Episcopal Church in the first place, and why the military needs more Episcopalian chaplains with a firm grounding in both worlds, he and Woods say.

“In the military, you’ll be a priest or a pastor to some, but you’ll be a chaplain to all,” Woods said. “Everyone that I care for will not be Episcopalian. I’ll need a whole different toolbox to care for all the other people with different types of beliefs.”

— Amy Sowder is a special correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn. She can be reached at amysowderepiscopalnews@gmail.com. David Paulsen, an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service, contributed to this report. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

 

Archbishop of Canterbury boosts links to the Commonwealth of Nations

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 2:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has appointed a special representative to the Commonwealth – an association of 52 independent nations, most of which used to be part of the British empire. The Rev. Flora Winfield, the Anglican Communion’s former representative to the United Nations in Geneva, will take up the new role ahead of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in April 2018.

Read the entire article here.

Asian Christians celebrate diamond jubilee of first regional ecumenical group

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 2:03pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than 6,000 people attended the diamond jubilee ceremony of the world’s oldest regional ecumenical organization, the Christian Conference of Asia, yesterday (Sunday). The event, at the Franc Auditorium of the Baptist Church in Yangon, Myanmar, took place during the CCA’s Asian mission conference. The CCA brings together a large number of churches in the Asian and Oceania area, including many Anglican provinces. Its mission conference concludes Oct. 17.

Read the entire story here.

Churches urged to set aside day for beach clean-up

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 2:00pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans and other Christians throughout the world are being encouraged to take part in a coordinated beach clean-up project in September 2018. The third Saturday in September is recognized by the conservation community as International Coastal Clean-up Day. The Environmental Network of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is joining forces with the Christian environment network, A Rocha International, and other partners to encourage Christians around the world to take part in next year’s Coastal Clean-up Day, on Sept. 15, 2018.

Read the entire article here.

God’s church for God’s world: 2020 Lambeth Conference takes shape

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 1:57pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The group tasked with designing the next Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops has been meeting this week to continue their preparations. The Lambeth Conference is one of the Anglican Communion’s four instruments of unity, and brings together bishops from across the world, usually once every 10 years. This week, the Lambeth 2020 Design Group has been at the Anglican Communion Office in London to further explore the details of the next Lambeth Conference, which will take place in Canterbury, England in 2020.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop Nigel Stock named as chaplain to the 2020 Lambeth Conference

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 1:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The former bishop at Lambeth, Nigel Stock, has joined the Lambeth 2020 Design Group as chaplain to the Lambeth Conference, the gathering of Anglican bishops which will take place in Canterbury, England in 2020. The Chaplain to the Lambeth Conference is a crucial role, organizing worship representative of the diversity of the Anglican Communion as well as providing prayerful support for the bishops as they meet.

Read the entire article here.

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