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World Council of Churches begins its platinum anniversary with celebration in China

Mon, 01/08/2018 - 11:51am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The World Council of Churches has begun a year of celebrations to mark its 70th anniversary with a celebration in China. The general secretary of the council, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, preached in one of the oldest Protestant churches in China Sunday – Chongwenmen Church in Beijing – on the theme “Jesus Christ, the Joy of the World.”  And he took with him a message of greeting from what the council describes as “the living fellowship with 348 member churches worldwide.”

Read the entire article here.

 

Presiding Bishop in Puerto Rico exchanges messages of hope as struggles persist after hurricane

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 3:37pm

Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales, left, gives a toy to a child during a pop-up medical clinic that doubled as a hurricane relief station Jan. 3 in Toa Baja. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, who was on a two-day pastoral visit, helped distribute the toys alongside three costumed Wise Men. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico] Bishop Rafael Morales leaves no impression he is still wading into his job. He had led the Diocese of Puerto Rico a mere two months when Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September, and since then he, his staff and clergy around the diocese have mobilized relief efforts with a determination that this week earned praise from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during his two-day visit.

Hurricane Maria was and continues to be an unparalleled catastrophe, Morales said, but he is seizing the opportunity for ministry to his fellow Puerto Ricans.

“Our people have a good heart,” he said Jan. 3, on the road to the coastal town of Toa Baja accompanied by Curry. Puerto Rico’s culture is one of thanksgiving, Morales said. “This diocese is a diocese of hope.”

Curry was in Puerto Rico on a pastoral visit, and he preached Jan. 3 in the evening at the Episcopal cathedral in San Juan, the capital of the U.S. territory. The earlier stop in Toa Baja introduced Curry and his delegation to Hugs of Love, a series of pop-up medical clinics the diocese has offered since the hurricane through the health care system it runs. This and other ministries are strengthened by ecumenical partnerships and through collaboration with federal agencies, local nonprofits and the Episcopal Church’s Episcopal Relief & Development.

For the Hugs of Love event in Toa Baja, open-air canvas tents were set up on a vacant gravel lot provided by the local Disciples of Christ congregation, which also sent volunteers. They wore hats and shirts with the message “Ama Como Crist” – “Love Like Christ.”

“Thank you for what you’ve both done. It’s God’s work,” Curry said to the Disciples of Christ pastor, the Rev. Prudencio Rivera Andujar, and his wife, Azalia Gomez.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry greets people Jan. 3 at the pop-up medical clinic in Toa Baja. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Curry walked through the tents shaking hands and doling out hugs to the diocesan volunteers and some of the hundreds of residents who had come for the daylong clinic. They waited their turns to receive blood pressure checks, blood tests, vaccinations, prescription refills and other medical services, all provided free by doctors and nurses from Episcopal Hospital San Lucas, based in Ponce.

Everyone from the San Lucas system gets involved in the pop-up clinics, Jesus Cruz Correa, the hospital’s medical director, told Curry. “We rotate the doctors.” Patients who need further medical attention are referred to the hospital for follow-up visits.

A box truck from the hospital, parked near one of the tents, was filled with food, water and personal hygiene items for distribution to the families. Lunch and music were included in the event, along with activities for the children.

Morales, who spent seven years as a priest in Toa Baja, was an eager host, leaning in for a laugh often and deploying his infectious smile nearly always. He is an Episcopalian who talks constantly about his blessings, his diocese’s blessings, his people’s blessings, even in a time of such deprivation. The church is motivated to engage with the community, he said.

“It’s a blessing, it’s a ministry,” he had told Curry earlier in the day after greeting him at the hotel in San Juan. “We have hard moments now, but Jesus is blessing us.”

Residents still struggle months after hurricane

The scene around Toa Baja, about 20 minutes west of San Juan, only hints at the scale of the disaster still gripping much of the island more than 100 days after the hurricane struck as a powerful category 4 hurricane. It made landfall Sept. 20 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, knocking out power and telephone service for the island’s 3.4 million residents. It caused mudslides, destroyed homes and businesses, downed trees and created extreme shortages of food and drinking water.

The official death toll from the storm stands at 64, but a New York Times analysis last month suggests the disaster’s real toll is exponentially higher, possibly topping 1,000 deaths.

The damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has been particularly devastating. The governor’s office announced last week that power had been restored to only 55 percent of customers across the island, and getting the lights back on in remote areas might not happen until May.

In Trujillo Alto, a downed utility pole rests at the side of a road that leads to the Episcopal diocesan offices, in a neighborhood among those still without power. Some stoplights on the town’s thoroughfares have only recently begun working again, but as of this week Morales’ team was based in a building still powering itself by generator.

Some inland mountain communities have been hit even harder. “Roads are completely destroyed,” the Rev. Edwin Orlando Velez said through a Spanish translator while visiting the Hugs for Love clinic in Toa Baja.

Orlando Velez serves two congregations in the west-central part of the island, in the towns of Lares and Maricao. Many people are still are without power or water, he said. Because of mudslides and downed trees, driving is difficult.

The churches are working with the local municipalities to help with cleanup, but Orlando Velez and other priests also have been ministering to hurricane victims through home visits. They often find simply to hold someone’s hand and listen to stories makes a difference.

“I would say that they are in pretty good spirits,” he said. “The people in the mountains are used to hardships. Because of that they have had an accepting attitude.”

Some of the diocese’s priests lost their homes. Others didn’t have power in their churches until receiving generators, with help from Episcopal Relief & Development and other church partners, such as the Diocese of Maryland.

In the first days after the storm, with phone lines down and cell service unreliable, Episcopal Relief & Development arranged to get satellite phones to the diocese so Morales’ team could coordinate pastoral and medical relief efforts with far-flung clergy. Episcopal Relief & Development also has paid for food and water, and because of its experience responding to previous hurricanes, it is helping the diocese coordinate with federal agencies and other relief organizations.

Episcopal Relief & Development President Rob Radtke, who accompanied Curry on his two-day visit, called Puerto Rico a “high-capacity diocese.” The diocese has successfully leveraged its health care system as part of relief efforts, he said, and it benefits from well-organized and ambitious leadership with a heartening interest in serving its community.

“This is where the church really has a particular gift. This is true both in Puerto Rico and elsewhere,” Radtke told Episcopal News Service. “It has access to the most intimate parts of people’s lives, and it has a high level of trust that it can call on, in terms of people reaching out to the church and seeing the church as a place that will meet their needs.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joins a group led by the Diocese of Puerto Rico that conducted home visits Jan. 3 to provide medical care to sick residents of Toa Baja. Here, Mariana Cabrera, 83, who suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and ulcers, is checked by medical personnel. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Morales expressed disappointment in the federal response so far. He doesn’t think the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, has shown the same commitment to Puerto Rico as it has to communities in the continental United States that were ravaged by hurricanes in 2017, such as Houston. In areas where the government is seen as falling short, his diocese hopes to step up.

“The blessing is that now we are a missionary diocese,” Morales told Curry over lunch of chicken, rice and beans, as three costumed Wise Men took the lead in handing out bags of food and water to families visiting the Toa Baja clinic.

After lunch, Morales and Curry joined the Three Wise Men to distribute toys to a long line of smiling children and their parents – “the Epiphany in advance,” Morales said.

In face of despair, seeking signs of hope

Curry had another biblical reference in mind. “You have turned the water of the hurricane into the wine of hope,” he told the church leaders in Toa Baja, providing a preview of his sermon hours later.

That evening, at Holy Eucharist at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Curry spoke of the Epiphany gospel reading resonating for the local church’s mission – how the Three Wise Men of the Gospel of Matthew stumbled upon a miracle, and how Episcopalians in Puerto Rico may find miracles in themselves. Then he invoked the story of the Wedding at Cana, in which Jesus took jars of water and turned them into wine for all of those gathered.

“I’ve heard about neighbors taking care of neighbors,” he said, highlighting examples in Puerto Rico, from the priests who have reached out to people with damaged homes to the doctors and nurses he met at the “hospital in the field” in Toa Baja.

“You’ve been turning the water of Maria into the wine of hope,” he told the congregation.

He concluded with words of encouragement, for Episcopalians in Puerto Rico to keep following the way of Jesus as they minister to their neighbors.

“When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high,” he said. “If you follow Jesus, you’ll never walk alone.”

Such encouragement is welcome. Despair is a constant threat for families struggling after the hurricane, said Damaris DeJesus, who serves as secretary of the diocese’s board of directors and who chauffeured Curry and the other visitors to some of their stops this week.

“For example, that house,” she said, pointing to a damaged apartment building on the side of a road in Toa Baja. “That family, what are they going to do?” At the same time, she credited Morales with emphasizing hope in calling the diocese to serve those in need.

Damaris DeJesus discusses Puerto Ricans’ mix of despair and hope during the drive from Toa Baja back to San Juan on on Jan. 3 with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, right, and an Episcopal Church delegation. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

DeJesus is a psychologist who teaches at the University of Puerto Rico, and after the hurricane she worked with interns to set up group counseling sessions with families dealing with the psychological trauma of losing so much. She was struck by the perspective of a 6-year-old boy, who was living in a tent with his parents because his family’s home was damaged in the storm.

“At the moment I met him, I saw how happy he was,” she said told Curry and his staff through an interpreter. The boy had pointed out all that his family still had, including each other. “He was thankful to God that he was with his parents.”

On Jan. 4, Morales arranged for Curry to hear testimonials from people who survived the hurricane. After giving Curry and his staff a tour of the diocesan offices in Trujillo Alto, he invited them outside to a banquet lunch under a tent, where the generator’s rumble mixed with the sound of live music.

Before the lunch was served, four Episcopalians stood to speak to the crowd of several dozen people about their experiences during and after Hurricane Maria. Kelma L. Nieves Serrano of Fajardo described how she and her wife lost everything – their house flooded, their car destroyed.

“We also had God as our companion,” she said through a translator. And they felt fortunate to have members of the Episcopal community checking in on them and offering food, water and transportation when needed. “We are struggling, but we are standing.”

Kelma L. Nieves Serrano of Fajardo describes her experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria at an event Jan. 4 hosted by Bishop Rafael Morales outside the diocesan offices in Trujillo Alto. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Elfidia Pizarro Parrilla of Loiza said she and her neighbors were similarly thankful for the support of the Episcopal Church. The hurricane “turned our home upside-down. I have lost everything that I had,” Pizarro Parrilla said. “The church said, ‘we are here, present with you.’”

Morales gave his own testimonial, beginning by acknowledging his own despair after the hurricane struck. He came to the diocese’s offices, saw the surrounding destruction and wondered what he could do. He was inspired by the sight of a cross, which was still standing outside behind the main building.

“When I saw the cross, I understood that the Lord was indeed in the middle of the storm and he was here after the storm,” Morales told the crowd gathered under the tent.

The tent had been raised on a large concrete slab in front of the main building, and it served as a symbol of resurrection as Morales spoke of how God has guided the diocese forward. The hurricane destroyed a provisional church building on the concrete slab, which now supported a gathering filled with fellowship and resolve.

“What a hurricane takes away can be rebuilt into something good,” he said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Dinorah Padro contributed translation for this report.

UK government begins bell-ringer recruitment drive ahead of Armistice Centenary

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:29am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Two British government departments are working with the United Kingdom’s Central Council of Church Bell Ringers to recruit 1,400 new campanologists ahead of the centenary of the First World War armistice on Nov.11,2018. As part of commemorations in the UK, bells will ring out from churches and cathedrals in cities, towns and villages across the UK. Some 1,400 bell ringers lost their lives in the First World War, and the Ringing Remembers campaign is designed to “keep this traditional British art alive in memory of the 1,400 who lost their lives – linking together past, present and future,” the government said in a statement.

Read the entire article here.

El Obispo Primado intercambia mensajes de esperanza en Puerto Rico mientras persisten los problemas después del huracán

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 9:38am

El obispo de Puerto Rico, Rafael Morales, le da un juguete a un niño durante una visita a una clínica temporal en Toa Baja que fungió también de estación de socorro para [damnificados por] el huracán el 3 de enero. El obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, que estaba en medio de una visita pastoral de dos días, ayudó a distribuir los juguetes junto con los tres Reyes Magos que iban con sus trajes típicos. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS

[Episcopal News Service – Toa Baja, Puerto Rico] El obispo Rafael Morales no da la impresión de que sigue inmerso en su trabajo. Llevaba apenas dos meses al frente de la Diócesis de Puerto Rico cuando el huracán María devastó la isla en septiembre, y desde entonces, su personal y el clero de la diócesis han movilizado las iniciativas de ayuda con tal determinación que esta semana le ganaron el reconocimiento del obispo primado Michael Curry durante sus dos días de visita.

El huracán María fue y sigue siendo una catástrofe sin paralelo, dijo Morales, pero él está aprovechando la oportunidad para ministrar a sus compatriotas puertorriqueños.

“Nuestra gente tiene buen corazón”, dijo él el 3 de enero, en camino al pueblo costero de Toa Baja acompañado por Curry. La cultura de Puerto Rico es de acción de gracias, afirmó Morales. “Esta diócesis es una diócesis de esperanza”.

Curry estuvo en Puerto Rico de visita pastoral y predicó el 3 de enero por la noche en la catedral episcopal de San Juan, la capital de este territorio de EE.UU. En la escala que antes hiciera en Toa Baja, a Curry y su delegación les presentaron Abrazos de Amor, una serie de clínicas itinerantes que la diócesis ha ofrecido desde el huracán a través del sistema de salud que dirige. Este y otros ministerios se han fortalecido gracias a las asociaciones ecuménicas y a la colaboración de agencias federales, instituciones locales sin fines de lucro y el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo.

Para el evento de Abrazos de Amor en Toa Baja, se levantaron tiendas en un solar yermo de suelo de gravilla que proporcionó la congregación local de los Discípulos de Cristo, la cual también envió voluntarios que llevaban gorras y camisetas con el mensaje “Ama como Cristo”.

“Gracias por lo que han hecho. Es la obra de Dios”, dijo Curry al pastor de los Discípulos de Cristo, el Rdo. Prudencio Rivera Andújar y a su esposa Azalia Gómez.

El obispo primado Michael Curry saluda a las personas el 3 de enero en la clínica temporal de Toa Baja. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Curry anduvo a través de las tiendas dando estrechones de mano y abrazos a los voluntarios diocesanos y a algunos de los cientos de residentes que habían venido a esta clínica de un día de duración. Esperaban su turno para que les midieran la tensión arterial, les tomaran muestras de sangre, los vacunaran, les dieran repuestos de recetas y otros servicios médicos, todos ellos ofrecidos gratuitamente por médicos y enfermeras del hospital episcopal San Lucas, que tiene su sede en Ponce.

Todo el mundo del sistema del San Lucas participó en las clínicas temporales, le dijo a Curry Jesús Cruz Correa, director médico del hospital. “Rotamos los médicos”. Los pacientes que necesitan ulterior atención médica los remitimos al hospital para visitas de seguimiento.

Un camión del hospital, estacionado cerca de una de las tiendas, estaba lleno de alimentos, agua y artículos de aseo personal para distribuírselos a las familias. El almuerzo y la música estaban incluidos en el evento, junto con actividades para los niños.

Morales, que pasó siete años como sacerdote en Toa Baja, fue un anfitrión entusiasta, riéndose con frecuencia y mostrando su sonrisa contagiosa casi siempre. Él es un episcopal que habla constantemente de sus bendiciones, de las bendiciones de la diócesis, de las bendiciones de su gente, incluso en un momento de tantas privaciones. La iglesia se siente motivada a interactuar con la comunidad, afirmó él.

“Es una bendición, es un ministerio”, le dijo él a Curry horas antes ese día luego de saludarlo en el hotel de San Juan. “Ahora tenemos momentos difíciles, pero Jesús nos está bendiciendo”.

Meses después del huracán, los habitantes de la isla aún se enfrentan a dificultades

La escena en torno a Toa Baja, a unos 20 minutos al oeste de San Juan, apenas insinúa la magnitud del desastre que aún afecta a gran parte de la isla más de 100 días después que la tormenta azotara como un violento huracán de categoría 4. Tocó tierra el 20 de septiembre con vientos sostenidos de 249 kph, interrumpiendo el servicio eléctrico y telefónico de los 3,4 millones de habitantes de la isla. Causó aludes de lodo, destruyó casas y empresas, derribó árboles y provocó extrema escasez de alimentos y agua potable.

La cifra oficial de muertes debido a la tormenta es de 64, pero un análisis del New York Times el mes pasado sugiere que la cifra real de bajas mortales es exponencialmente mayor, ascendiendo posiblemente a 1.000 fallecidos.

Los daños a la infraestructura de Puerto Rico han sido particularmente devastadores. La oficina del Gobernador anunció la semana pasada que sólo se había restablecido el servicio eléctrico a un 55 por ciento de clientes en toda la isla, y que el regreso del alumbrado en algunas zonas remotas podría no ocurrir hasta mayo.

En Trujillo Alto, un poste de la electricidad descansa derribado a la orilla de la carretera que conduce a las oficinas de la diócesis episcopal, en un barrio de los que todavía no tienen servicio eléctrico. Algunos reflectores en las carreteras del pueblo sólo recientemente han comenzado a funcionar de nuevo, pero hasta esta semana el equipo de Morales trabajaba en un edificio que aún depende de un generador.

Algunas comunidades de las montañas del interior se han visto aun más afectadas. “Las carreteras están completamente destruidas”, dijo el Rdo. Edwin Orlando Vélez a través de una traductora mientras visitábamos la clínica de Abrazos de Amor en Toa Baja.

Orlando Vélez atiende a dos congregaciones en la parte centrooccidental de la isla, en los pueblos de Lares y Maricao. Muchas personas aún se encuentran sin electricidad ni agua, dijo él. Debido a los deslaves y el derribo de árboles, resulta difícil conducir.

Las iglesias están trabajando con los gobiernos municipales para ayudar en la limpieza, pero Orlando Vélez y otros sacerdotes también han estado ministrando a víctimas del huracán mediante visitas a los hogares. Con frecuencia encuentran que sostener la mano de alguien y escuchar sus historias marca la diferencia.

“Yo diría que tienen muy buen ánimo”, afirmó él. “La gente en las montañas está acostumbradas a pasar trabajo. Debido a eso tienen una actitud de aceptación”.

Algunos de los sacerdotes de la diócesis perdieron sus hogares. Otros no tuvieron electricidad en sus iglesias hasta que recibieron generadores, gracias al Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo y otras entidades de la Iglesia, tal como la Diócesis de Maryland.

En los primeros días después de la tormenta, con las líneas telefónicas caídas y el servicio de celulares inestable, el Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo logró conseguir teléfonos satelitales para la diócesis, de suerte que el equipo de Morales pudiera coordinar iniciativas de ayuda pastoral y médica con clérigos que se encontraran lejos. El Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo también ha costeado alimentos y agua y, debido a su experiencia en huracanes anteriores, está ayudando a la diócesis a coordinar esfuerzos con agencias federales y otras organizaciones humanitarias.

Rob Radtke, presidente del Fondo Episcopal de Ayuda y Desarrollo, que acompañó a Curry en su visita de dos días, definió a Puerto Rico como “una diócesis de alta capacidad”. La diócesis ha potenciado exitosamente su sistema de atención sanitaria como parte de las iniciativas de ayuda, explicó él, y se ha beneficiado de un liderazgo emprendedor y bien organizado con genuino interés en servir a su comunidad.

“Es en esto donde la Iglesia tiene un don particular. Esto es cierto lo mismo en Puerto Rico como en cualquier otra parte”, dijo Radtke a Episcopal News Service. “Tiene acceso a los más íntimos sentimientos de las vidas de la gente, y disfruta de un alto nivel de confianza que puede invocar desde el punto de vista de personas que se acercan a la Iglesia y ven a la Iglesia como un lugar que responderá a sus necesidades”.

El obispo primado Michael Curry se suma a un grupo de la Diócesis de Puerto Rico que llevó a cabo visitas a hogares el 3 de enero para proporcionarles atención médica a vecinos enfermos en Toa Baja. Aquí el personal médico examina a Mariana Cabrera, de 83 años, que padece de diabetes, hipertensión y úlceras. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Morales expresó  su decepción por lo ha que sido hasta el momento la respuesta del gobierno federal. Él no cree que la Administración Federal de Asistencia en Desastres (FEMA por su sigla en inglés) haya mostrado  el mismo nivel de compromiso con Puerto Rico que con otras comunidades de Estados Unidos continental que fueron azotadas por huracanes en 2017, tales como Houston. En áreas donde se percibe que el gobierno no ha hecho lo suficiente, su diócesis espera  redoblar sus esfuerzos.

“La bendición es que ahora somos una diócesis misionera”, dijo Morales a Curry durante un almuerzo de pollo, arroz y frijoles, mientras tres hombres vestidos como los Reyes Magos repartían bolsas de alimentos y agua a las familias que visitaban la clínica de Toa Baja.

Después del almuerzo, Morales y Curry se reunieron con los tres Reyes Magos para distribuir juguetes a una larga cola de niños sonrientes y a sus padres —“la Epifanía por anticipado”, dijo Morales.

En presencia de la desesperación, se buscan señales de esperanza

Curry tenía otra referencia bíblica en mente. “Ustedes han convertido el agua del huracán en el vino de la esperanza”, les dijo a los líderes de la Iglesia en Toa Baja, brindándoles un adelanto de su sermón horas después.

Esa noche, en la Santa Eucaristía en la catedral de San Juan el Bautista, Curry habló de la lectura del evangelio de la Epifanía que repercutía en la misión de la Iglesia local —como los tres magos del evangelio de Mateo tropezaron con un milagro, y cómo los episcopales en Puerto Rico pueden encontrar milagros en sí mismos. Luego invocó la historia de las Bodas de Caná, en las cuales Jesús tomó jarras de agua y las convirtió en vino para todos los que estaban allí reunidos.

“He oído hablar de vecinos que se ocupan de vecinos”, dijo, destacando ejemplos de Puerto Rico, de los sacerdotes que se han allegado a personas con viviendas dañadas, de los médicos y enfermeras que conoció en el “hospital de campaña” en Toa Baja.

“Ustedes han convertido el agua de[l huracán] María en el vino de la esperanza”, le dijo a la congregación.

Él concluyó con palabras de aliento, para que los episcopales de Puerto Rico se mantengan siguiendo el camino de Jesús en tanto ministran a sus prójimos.

“Cuando atraviesen la tormenta, mantengan la cabeza en alto”, dio. “Si siguen a Jesús, nunca andarán solos”.

Tal aliento es bien acogido. La desesperación es una constante amenaza para las familias que siguen luchando después del huracán, dijo Damaris DeJesus, que sirve de secretaria de la junta directiva de la diócesis y que condujo a Curry y a los demás visitantes a algunas de sus citas esta semana.

“Por ejemplo, esa casa”, dijo señalando un edificio de apartamentos afectado junto a la carretera en Toa Baja. “La familia, ¿qué va a hacer?” Al mismo tiempo, ella le hizo honor a Morales en enfatizar la esperanza al llamar a la diócesis a servir a los necesitados.

Damaris DeJesus explica la mezcla de desesperación y esperanza de los puertorriqueños durante el viaje de regreso de Toa Baja a San Juan el 3 de enero con el obispo primado Michael Curry, a la derecha, y la delegación de la Iglesia Episcopal. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

DeJesus es psicóloga y enseña en la Universidad de Puerto Rico y, después del huracán, trabajo con pasantes en la creación de sesiones de consejería de grupos con familias que se enfrentan al trauma psicológico de afrontar grandes pérdidas. Ella se quedó impresionada por la perspectiva de un niñito de 6 años, que estaba viviendo en una tienda con sus padres porque la casa de su familia se había visto afectada por la tormenta.

“Desde el momento en que lo conocí, vi lo feliz que era”, le dijo ella a Curry y sus acompañantes a través de un intérprete. El niño le había señalado todo lo que su familia aún tenía, incluidos unos a otros. “Le agradecía a Dios el estar con sus padres”.

El 4 de enero, Morales concertó que Curry oyera testimonios de personas que sobrevivieron el huracán. Luego de hacerle a Curry y su personal un recorrido por las oficinas diocesanas en Trujillo Alto, los invitó a almorzar afuera bajo una tienda de campaña, donde el ruido del generador se mezclaba con el sonido de la música en vivo.

Antes de que sirvieran el almuerzo, cuatro episcopales se levantaron para hablarle al grupo de varias docenas de personas acerca de sus experiencias durante el huracán María y después de su paso. Kelma L. Nieves Serrano, de Fajardo, contó cómo ella y su esposa perdieron todo: su casa inundada y su auto destruido.

“También tuvimos a Dios como nuestro compañero” dijo ella valiéndose de una traductora. Y se sintieron afortunadas de contar con miembros de la comunidad episcopal que estaban pendientes de ellas y que les brindaron alimento, agua y transporte cuando lo necesitaron. “Tenemos dificultades, pero estamos en pie”.

Kelma L. Nieves Serrano, de Fajardo, describe sus experiencias después del paso del huracán María en un evento el 4 de enero preparado por el obispo Rafael Morales frente a las oficinas diocesanas en Trujillo Alto. Foto de David Paulsen/ENS.

Elfidia Pizarro Parrilla, de Loiza, dijo que ella y sus vecinos estaban igualmente agradecidos por el apoyo de la Iglesia Episcopal. El huracán “viró nuestra casa al revés. Yo he perdido todo lo que tenía”, dijo Pizarro Parrilla. “La Iglesia nos dijo ‘estamos aquí con ustedes’”.

Morales dio su propio testimonio, empezando por reconocer su propia desesperanza después del azote del huracán. Él vino a las oficinas de la diócesis, vio la destrucción circundante y se preguntó qué podía hacer. Se sintió inspirado al ver una cruz, que seguía en pie afuera, detrás del edificio principal.

“Cuando vi la cruz, entendí que el Señor estaba ciertamente en medio de la tormenta y que él estaba aquí después de la tormenta”, dijo Morales al grupo reunido en la tienda.

La tienda se levantó sobre una gran placa de concreto frente al edificio principal [de la diócesis] y sirvió como un símbolo de resurrección mientras Morales hablaba de cómo Dios había guiado la diócesis para que saliera delante. El huracán destruyó el edificio de una iglesia provisional que se alzaba sobre la placa de concreto, que ahora sostenía una reunión rebosante de fraternidad y resolución.

“Lo que huracán se lleva puede rehacerse en algo bueno”, afirmó él.

– David Paulsen es redactor y reportero de Episcopal News Service. Pueden dirigirse a él a dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org. Dinorah Padro colaboró con la traducción para este reportaje. Traducción de Vicente Echerri.

Church of England unveils £24.4 million ($33 million) national investment in new churches and evangelism

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:06pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of England has announced grants of £24.4 million ($33 million) in the latest [portion] of its Renewal and Reform program funding. The money is being provided by the Church’s strategic investment board, which was created as part of a change in the way national funding from the church commissioners is provided to diocese and parishes. Previously, the commissioners provided support to dioceses on the basis of a national formula. But after a review looking into resourcing the future of the Church, the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops agreed instead that all of the national funding should be distributed for investment in the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church.

Read the entire article here.

Government of Burundi praises Anglican Church for tree-planting campaign

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:49am

[Anglican Communion News Service]  The Anglican Church of Burundi (EAB) has been awarded a Certificate of Merit from the government’s environment ministry for its ongoing tree-planting campaign. Over the past ten years, more than 12 million trees have been planted as part of EAB’s commitment to preserve the environment. In December 2016, the EAB revealed it had set a “One Person, One Tree” goal – a five-year commitment to plant a tree for each one of Burundi’s 10 million-strong population.

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Welfare Association helps Hong Kong respond to the ‘silver tsunami’

Thu, 01/04/2018 - 11:47am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Welfare Association of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui – the Anglican Church in Hong Kong – is working with the government to help respond to a predicted “silver tsunami” – an increasingly aging population. Law Chi-kwong, Hong Kong’s secretary for labor and welfare, said that the “silver tsunami” would bring on a surge in demand for elderly care services in the next several decades. He revealed that the church was planning an innovative project that would provide the elderly with affordable accommodation and accessible facilities; and he said that the government was “proactively considering appropriate supporting policies”.

Read the entire article here.

Q&A: This Episcopalian cultivates community by getting dirty

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 1:46pm

Brian Sellers-Petersen works in a garden in the spring 2016. He’s retiring from Episcopal Relief & Development to continue his food and faith ministry in other ways. Photo: Kevin C. Johnson/St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

[Episcopal News Service] As 2017 came to a close, Episcopal News Service caught up with Brian Sellers-Petersen during a brief visit to the Episcopal Church Center in midtown Manhattan. Sellers-Petersen spoke about how his ministry has evolved, his near-death experience and what he plans to do in 2018 now that he’s moving on after 17 years working for Episcopal Relief & Development. Hint: One catalyst was his book, “Harvesting Abundance: Local Initiatives of Food and Faith,” published by Church Publishing Inc.

Sellers-Petersen is based in Seattle, Washington. For the last several years, he worked as senior advisor to Robert Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. Sellers-Petersen’s favorite way to engage people is through his fusion of food and faith. For example, he was integral in founding the Faith Farm and Food Network at the Beecken Center of The School of Theology at Sewanee in Tennessee. In August 2016, the program’s name changed to Cultivate: Episcopal Food Movement.

What is the connection between edible gardens and the Episcopal Church?

The church owns a lot of land — land not being used. We’re huge property owners … A lot of my work interests run parallel with asset-mapping work. So, I was talking to churches about their asset base. And in suburban, upper-middle class churches, there are multiple master gardeners and gardens, people

Brian Sellers-Petersen


Home: Seattle, Washington
Education: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, B.S.; Fuller Theological Seminary, M.A., theology; Sewanee, The School of the South, fellowship at School of Theology
Positions: Director of the Center for South Africa Ministry at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California; California regional organizer for Bread for the World; special assistant to the president at World Vision; senior advisor to the president, Episcopal Relief & Development.

knowledgeable about landscaping, ornamentals. Yet a lot of [experts] are moving toward edible gardens. There’s also an abundance of commercial kitchens in our churches that aren’t used to their maximum, or even minimum capacity, as far as I’m concerned.

Why didn’t you go directly into farming like your family did?

My family is the first generation off the farm. We were the city kids of all the cousins, [the ones] who came down in the summer and worked on the farm. We were the kids without a farmer tan and calluses. My parents, they’ve never really come right out and said it, but they couldn’t wait to get off the farm. So, there wasn’t encouragement of my interest in agriculture. I mean, I remember distinctly thinking about going to [agriculture] school in Nebraska, where the family farms are. I don’t know if I ever told my parents that, but they would’ve probably convinced me that wasn’t the right thing to do because it’s a really hard life.

What did you do instead?

I went into international development. When I graduated, I had a psych degree, and I didn’t know what to do. I … ended up in South Africa. That was as far away as Nebraska and Minnesota as I could get. I was there during apartheid, at the end of it. I worked in rural areas and kept that connection with the land. I worked for Bread for the World, which is a Christian citizen lobbying group focused largely in the farm belt and on anything hunger related. And then I worked at World Vision, and I developed curriculum for kids and worked in a similar job to what I’m doing at [Episcopal Relief & Development].

How did your work at Episcopal Relief & Development take a turn toward food in particular?

Whenever I’d make international trips, I’d look and really study and learn as much as I could about the agricultural work — small-scale, sustainable agriculture. When I headed up the church engagement department at [Episcopal Relief & Development], we started the curriculum for children called the Abundant Life Garden Project.

It was viewing the garden as a classroom, where children could learn about what Episcopal Relief & Development does in terms of food, water, environment and livestock, and also, they could learn the basics of Christianity. To me … the garden is the best classroom we have to learn about God. And that’s what this curriculum was about.

Out of the experience of seeing all that work around the world, I started looking at church assets in the United States completely differently. Churches had beautiful green lawns, a lot of them. And then I started seeing those green lawns and saying, ‘You know, that acre of land that they don’t use, except for the Easter egg hunt, could be growing food.’  We need to develop a stronger sense of awareness of how important it is to be eating local and seasonal food … the church is the place to help lead in terms of awareness.

Brian Sellers-Peterson displayed copies of his book and some of the honey from his hives after a recent Sunday service in December. Photo: Kevin C. Johnson/St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

What instigated your “Harvesting Abundance” book and career change?

Five years ago, I got sabbatical from Episcopal Relief & Development. I took a deep, deep dive looking at church agriculture here in the United States. I volunteered at this biodynamic permaculture hippie farm not far from my house once a week. And I visited a lot of church gardens and talked to people and listened to what made them glad. It was a blast. I went way beyond parishes. All the other entities within the church have agriculture, and some of them were founded on agriculture. The University of the South, Sewanee, used to be a working farm, all the students had to work on the farm. And there’s a separate high school, St. Andrews, that a monastic order founded, where again, all the students had to work on the farm … Camps and conference centers are another example. Gardens are growing all over the place.

Then what happened?

Not long after that, I almost died. I spent four months in the hospital. There’s about a 10 percent survival rate [for people diagnosed with aortic dissection]. So, I just learned about gratitude. I was immobilized, so I had a lot of time laying on my back. I never really understood the depth to which I had gone until I was out of the hospital. I had to relearn everything. I had to learn how to swallow again.

How did this traumatic event change the course of your life?

I had a lot of time to consider, and so during that period, I started finally documenting my sabbatical, and it ended up becoming a book. The process of writing the book led me to the decision that it’s time, after 17 years with [Episcopal Relief & Development], to try something different.

And so, this is how you’ve integrated your faith with your love of all things agrarian?

I’m called to put my hands it the dirt, but not eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, 12 hours a day. Maybe occasionally, but my call is more to be an agricultural evangelist in the Episcopal Church, sharing the good news of our responsibility to care for all of creation. The presiding bishop really has articulated that well, in terms of creation care. I want us to do a better job in our choices around food and caring for all of creation, and that happens in a variety of ways.

Such as, how we can do our part to alleviate climate change?

When we talk about building resilience against climate change, a kitchen garden is a pretty simple way to do it, instead of feeling paralyzed. Every carrot we pull out of our backyard or off our little balcony, if we grow on our balcony, is one less carrot where we drive our car to the grocery store to buy a carrot that’s been shipped from somewhere else. And by extension, farmers markets are vitally important.

I have a chapter in my book about churches with farmers markets. I think it’s a great way of participating in the community … If a church wants to do a garden, if at all possible, put it in the most conspicuous spot on your property. Plant it in your front yard. That serves as a symbol of your values. I think that gardens can serve as invitations. They can serve as porches. They may even serve as a front door.

Why is food considered a ministry?

I look at [the church’s current mission priorities] and all of them can connect to food. I look at reconciliation work: A garden is a great equalizer. The common table, if you can stay off of divisive subjects while at the table and enjoy food together, it really brings people together. And I think that’s an important ministry.

Evangelism: Not in a coercive way, but I think there’s good news in all aspects of food ministry.

Church growth, reinvigoration and church planting: There’s another story in there about a new church … really using the growing of their garden as a metaphor for growing their church.

And, the Navajoland [Area Mission] is doing some remarkable farming and small business enterprise through their agrarian ministry. So, in terms of indigenous ministries within the church, they’re doing it.

Do you have a garden at home?

Yeah, it’s kind of a wild garden. Since I’ve been sick, I haven’t spent as much time on it as I’d like. And since I started keeping bees, the bees have taken more of my time. But my wife is the big-time gardener. We’ve had chickens for many years, but our last chicken got out of the coop.

Considering himself a bee evangelist, Brian Sellers-Petersen keeps bees in four places: His hives at home in Seattle, Washington, at St. James and St. Columba churches in Kent, Washington, and on the roof of St. Mark’s Cathedral and diocesan office in Seattle. Photo: Kevin C. Johnson/St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

What are you going to do now that you’re not working for Episcopal Relief & Development?

I’m still trying to figure out how it all pieces together. It is largely going to be surrounding food ministry. Growing food. Preparing food, eating food. Spirituality of food.

Basically, I’m hanging up my shingle. I’ve been in conversation with a number of groups both inside the church and a couple of government agencies and nonprofits in Seattle. My hope is to continue to work within the church to encourage better stewardship of our land.

Is there any kind of action that you’d like people to take after reading this?

Churches should be doing their own composting. I’ve come across a lot of great composting systems that churches have developed. But we’re [not even doing well] at just recycling. We’ve got to walk before we run. So, we can talk about the big things such as insulation and solar panels, but there are the small things too.

Get our kids’ hands in the dirt at Sunday school when they’re preschoolers, to put a radish seed in a Dixie cup so they can see the sprout next week. There could be huge transformations from these very little things. Sunday school kids … put the seed in, which ends up at the food bank, that ends up in people’s balconies or backyards, and these people might even live in a food desert.  And the kid can follow that food chain from a young age and learn about that.

Cultivate, one of their big jobs is to make sure this [grow-your-own trend] isn’t just a fad. We’re at this sort of this critical place where if we don’t hop on it hard now, we’re in big trouble.

Start a conversation in your churches about what your assets are. What can you do, small or large? Sometimes people get overwrought and think it’s too much, and they collapse in on themselves — “Oh, we can’t do it. We don’t have enough volunteers.” Sometimes it’s just planting a seed.

— 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. This interview was edited for clarity and condensed.

Nigerian Primate predicts positive future despite ongoing violence

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 12:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Bishop of Abuja, Nicholas Okoh, has used his New Year Message to predict a “year of optimism and happiness” for Nigerians. Okoh, the Primate of All Nigeria, made his comments in a New Year’s Message as it emerged that 17 churchgoers were shot dead as they left a midnight Eucharist service at a church in Omoku, about 56 miles north-west of Port Harcourt, in southern Nigeria’s oil-rich River State. The attack has been blamed on one of a number of armed gangs which are active in the area, mainly target multi-national oil companies in the region. The local Anglican Archbishop of the Niger Delta, Ignatius Kattey, and his wife Beatrice, were kidnapped by one such gang in September 2013. They were released unharmed a short time later.

Read the entire article here.

Heightened terror risk leads to cancellation of church’s New Year’s Eve party

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 2:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service]  A church in New South Wales was forced to cancel its traditional New Year’s Eve street party because of the increased terror threat. Since the eve of the millennium in 1999, Saint Aidan’s Church in Longueville, New South Wales, has staged a free open-air New Year’s Eve party. Its location on the banks of the Lane Cove River with fantastic views of Sydney’s world-famous spectacular midnight fireworks show made it a popular choice for Longueville residents. Last year, 4,000 people turned up for the church’s eve-of-midnight concert and barbecue. But senior minister Craig Potter explained that security measures designed to prevent an accident are not sufficient to prevent a deliberate attack.

Read the entire article here.

Archbishop of Cape Town calls for replacement of South African President Jacob Zuma

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 2:31pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, has called on South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to be replaced, and for a “carefully targeted cabinet reshuffle.”  Thabo, the primate of Southern Africa, made his comments during a sermon at the Christmas Eve midnight mass in Saint George’s Cathedral, Cape Town. He said that Zuma and his “cohorts of corruption” had been acting as if the South African treasury was their personal property. Thabo’s comments follow the election last month of South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as the new leader of the African National Congress. Ramaphosa is widely expected to be the next president of South Africa after the country’s general election in 2019.

Read the entire article here.

Se abre el proceso de concesión de becas para los Ministerios de Jóvenes Adultos y Campus

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 11:27am

El proceso de concesión de becas para los Ministerios de Jóvenes Adultos y Campus 2018 está abierto. Las becas brindan fondos para las diócesis, las congregaciones y los centros de estudios superiores/universitarios comunitarios/tribales para un ministerio episcopal (o un ministerio ecuménico con participación episcopal).

Estas becas son para el año lectivo 2018-2019. Un total de 138.000 dólares está disponible para el ciclo 2018-2019 de un total de 400.000 dólares que está disponible para el trienio.

Categorías
Hay cuatro categorías de becas:
Beca de liderazgo: para establecer un nuevo ministerio de campus, restaurar uno latente o re-energizar uno actual.  La beca oscilará entre los 20.000 a 30.000 dólares que pueden ser utilizados dentro de un periodo de dos años.
Becas para ministerio de campus: proveen capital inicial para ayudar la puesta en marcha de ministerios de campus nuevos e innovadores o para mejorar un ministerio existente. Las becas oscilarán entre los 3.000 a 5.000 dólares.
Becas para ministerio de jóvenes adultos: proveen capital inicial para asistir en el inicio de ministerios de jóvenes adultos nuevos e innovadores o para mejorar un ministerio existente. Las becas oscilarán entre los 3.000 a 5.000 dólares.
Becas para proyectos: proveen fondos para un proyecto único que aumentará el impacto del ministerio de jóvenes adultos y campus. Las becas son de 100 a 1.000 dólares.

Proceso
El proceso consiste en tres etapas:

• Planeación y discernimiento de la beca (descargue el PDF)
• Completar la solicitud de beca (descargue el documento de Word)
• Completar y enviar la solicitud aquí. La solicitud debe completarse en su totalidad y enviarse en línea. 

El formulario de solicitud de becas e información adicional están disponibles siguiendo este enlace.

Las solicitudes serán revisadas por un equipo que incluye a los Coordinadores Provinciales del Ministerio de Campus, líderes en el ministerio de jóvenes adultos, miembros del Consejo Ejecutivo y personal de la Iglesia Episcopal.

Cronología
La fecha límite para presentar las solicitudes es el 2 de febrero a las 10 de la noche, hora del este de los Estados Unidos / 9 p. m. hora del Centro / 8 p. m., hora de Montaña  / 7 p. m., hora del Pacífico.
• Del 3 al 16 de febrero las solicitudes de becas son leidas y evaluadas por un equipo de revisores.
• Del 17 al 28 de febrero los revisores de las becas se reúnen para discernir y hacer recomendaciones al Consejo Ejecutivo.
• El 5 de marzo se envían las recomendaciones al Consejo Ejecutivo.
• El Consejo Ejecutivo se reúne del 21 al 23 de abril y toma decisiones.
• Del 25 al 27 de abril se preparan y envían por correo las cartas para las solicitudes exitosas.
• El 30 de abril las becas son anunciadas.

Para más información comuníquese con Valerie Harris, asociada de formación en vharris@episcopalchurch.org.

RIP: Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr., seminary dean and rector

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 10:30am

The Rev. Dr. Harvey H. Guthrie, Jr., sometime dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and retired rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan, died on Dec.17in Oxnard, California. He had lived in retirement near Fillmore, California, since 1995.

Serving as the head of one of the Episcopal Church’s leading seminaries from 1969 to 1985, a period of upheaval and change in the church and in higher education, Guthrie led in the creation of the Episcopal Divinity School from a merger of the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge and the Philadelphia Divinity School, in the appointment to its faculty of ordained as well as lay women, and in sometimes controversial curricular innovation stressing individual student initiative based on experience and involvement in ministry.

His educational perspective was ecumenical. He was a leader in the founding of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of theological schools in the Boston area, in the bringing of the Jesuit Weston School of Theology into a shared-facilities relationship with EDS involving a joint library program and much joint teaching, and as a holder of many offices including the presidency of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.

Guthrie also participated in a historic period in the life of the Episcopal Church as a deputy to its General Conventions from 1973 to 1982, as a leader in the movement for the ordination of women, as a participant in the deliberations leading to the 1979 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, and as a long-time advocate for the recognition of gay and lesbian unions and the ordination of openly homosexual members of the church. For many years, he chaired the council of deans of Episcopal seminaries.

In 1985, after 35 years as a seminary teacher and administrator, Guthrie accepted a call to be rector of St. Andrew’s Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan. He saw his ten-year ministry there as practical application of his years of study of the church’s biblical and liturgical heritage. He led in establishing the liturgy as the center of parish life and in the refurbishing of a 19th century building to fit current liturgical practice. At the same time, he presided over a parish much involved in community service and issues, a significant part of whose ministry was a daily meal program for all who would come. His commitment to ecumenism continued in Ann Arbor, and he was a leader both in relationships among the churches and in the founding of an interfaith association including Jews and Muslims and Buddhists as well as Christians.

After his retirement in 1995, he continued occasional preaching and teaching, and worked as a legal aid volunteer, counseling and representing claimants of Social Security and welfare benefits at appeals. In 2012, he was honored by the Diocese of Los Angeles by being appointed an honorary canon.

Guthrie’s early contributions were as a teacher and scholar in biblical studies, particularly of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was the author of God and History in the Old Testament, Israel’s Sacred Songs, and Theology as Thanksgiving: from Israel’s Psalms to the Church’s Eucharist, as well as numerous articles and reviews. He was an instructor at the General Theological Seminary, New York, 1953-58, and a professor at the school in Cambridge from 1958, continuing to hold his chair and teach after becoming its dean in 1969. He had been a visiting lecturer at Columbia University, Andover-Newton Theological School, and St. George’s College in Jerusalem, a visiting scholar at Yale and at Göttingen University in Germany, and the Selwyn Lecturer in the Church in the Province of New Zealand. The Episcopal Divinity School honored him with the endowment of the Harvey H. Guthrie Professorship of Biblical Studies.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 70 years, Doris Peyton Guthrie, and their oldest son, Lawrence. He is survived by his three remaining children, Lynn, Stephen, and Andrew, and by three grandchildren, as well as by his brother, Jim.

The Episcopal Church’s Burial Office and Eucharist will be celebrated at Trinity Episcopal Church, Fillmore, California, on Feb.17 at 10a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to One Step a la Vez (http://www.myonestep.org/) and Trinity Episcopal Church (PO Box 306, Fillmore, CA 93016).

— This obituary was submitted by the Guthrie family.

Stone by stone, repairs gain steam at Washington National Cathedral 6 years after earthquake

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 9:39am

Stone carvers Andy Uhl, left, and Sean Callahan work on pieces of Washington National Cathedral that were damaged in the 2011 earthquake. Photo: Joe Alonso/Washington National Cathedral

[Episcopal News Service] The earthquake that struck the Washington, D.C., area in August 2011 caused an estimated $34 million in damage to Washington National Cathedral. More than six years later, less than half of those repairs are done, and the remaining work could take another decade to complete.

Progress is being made, however, and the Episcopal cathedral last month received a year-end donation from a foundation that will allow it to embark this spring on the next phase of repairs. This latest $1.5 million project will focus on the structure around an interior courtyard, which is the last part of the cathedral still closed to the public.

“It took 83 years to build this place. We’ve had scaffolding on the outside of our building more than we have not. In some ways, we’re kind of used to it,” said Kevin Eckstrom, the cathedral’s chief communications officer.

Repairs to the west towers at the front entrance to Washington National Cathedral were completed in summer 2017. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

It remains a beautiful building and an iconic religious landmark in the U.S. capital, but Washington National Cathedral also is more than the stones that form it, Eckstrom said. “The staff and the leadership feel very strongly that what’s really important about the building is what goes on inside.”

The courtyard project is a prime example. Known as the garth, it features a fountain and a patio, and reopening it will allow it to be used for weddings, banquets and other gatherings. There also are separate plans to add a columbarium and memorial garden to the space.

The walls surrounding the courtyard aren’t the problem. It’s the two pinnacles above that rotated during the earthquake, causing pieces to fall onto the courtyard below.

“It’s just a lovely space, and it’s another entry into different parts of the cathedral,” said Joe Alonso, the cathedral’s head stone mason. “The northeast end of the cathedral is kind of looming over you.”

The work this spring is just one of nine projects, some completed and other pending, that make up the second phase of earthquake repairs. Phase 1, costing about $10 million, was completed in 2015, focused on the interior of the cathedral and on the largest and oldest buttresses toward the rear. The cathedral was fully closed for just three months in 2011, as crews completed stabilization work in time to reopen that November to host the installation of Diocese of Washington Bishop Mariann Budde.

The rest of the work is being completed as the money is raised through private donations.

“We are committed to finishing the earthquake repairs and returning this glorious building to its original grandeur,” Dean Randy Hollerith said in an emailed statement. “However, those repairs must not, and will not, come before the ministry and mission that happens here. The building is important, but it is just a vehicle for the more vital work of ministry. What happens on the inside is ultimately more important than what people see on the outside.”

Washington National Cathedral’s initial construction was completed in 1990, though it continued to need maintenance and restoration, even before being damaged by the 2011 earthquake. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The cathedral is a solid masonry structure, so “the only thing that’s holding it together is gravity and physics and a whole lot of mortar,” Eckstrom said. As it is being repaired, stone by stone, crews are installing stainless steel rods between the stones to make the structure more resistant to the next major earthquake, if and when it strikes.

Crews in 2016 reinstall a pinnacle that was damaged in the earthquake. It was reinforced with the stainless steel rods. Photo: Colin Winterbottom/Washington National Cathedral

About 80 percent of the exterior of the cathedral still needs to be repaired. Some of the fixes have merely entailed reinforcing the structure, while other pieces of towers, pinnacles, buttresses and transepts have been damaged beyond repair and need to be replaced by carving new stone.

Alonso has worked at the cathedral since 1985 and was part of the final phase of its original construction, which was completed in 1990.  The structure continued to need maintenance and restoration in subsequent years but nothing like the aftermath of Aug. 23, 2011., when the magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck. It was centered 84 miles southwest of the cathedral near Mineral, Virginia.

“My God, the day of the earthquake, that was a punch in the gut,” Alonso said. He and his team, though, are making the most of their present work by cleaning and renovating parts of the cathedral that would not have been spruced up for years, such as the ceiling and the stained glass. “The access that we’re gaining with some of the earthquake work, we’re able to do some other needed repairs.”

The biggest repair project left is the central tower, which will cost an estimated $5 million to fix.

“When the quake hit D.C., the seismic waves went to the highest part of the city, which is the hill we’re sitting on,” Eckstrom said. “And they traveled up to the highest part of the building. … That happens to be our central tower.” A similar scenario occurred at the Washington Monument, which is expected to remain closed to the public until 2019.

The cathedral’s central tower is 300 feet, but its four grand pinnacles lost 20 to 30 feet of stonework when the stones fell or had to be removed. What remains is being stabilized with scaffolding until the repairs get the green light. If the cathedral were to receive enough money today to complete the project, it would take about three years, but this and the rest of the repairs on the list likely will stretch over the next decade.

Scaffolding is seen on the central tower of Washington National Cathedral, which was damaged in a 2011 earthquake. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

Washington National Cathedral is one of only two cathedrals in the United States, and the only Episcopal cathedral, with an active stone shop, Eckstrom said, and Alonso and two stone carvers have been busy since the earthquake. The second phase kicked off with repairs to the cathedral’s north transept in spring 2016. Another project, fixing the iconic west towers at the front of the cathedral, was completed in spring 2017.

These carved faces of Old Testament prophets were part of a turret that was disassembled in summer 2017 and lowered to the ground until it can be repaired. Photo: Colin Winterbottom/Washington National Cathedral

One additional silver lining in the earthquake’s aftermath has been the opportunity to see parts of the cathedral that otherwise would be out of reach. That’s because they’ve been brought down to eye level for repairs.

Last year, a damaged turret 20 stories up had to be taken down and placed on the ground outside the cathedral, allowing for close inspection of its defining feature: the carved faces of eight Old Testament prophets.

The cathedral, unfortunately, has no record of which prophet is which, but “it really gives you a chance to see the craftsmanship that went into creating the building,” Eckstrom said.

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

Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas Day sermon

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:13am

[Lambeth Palace] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s Christmas sermon preached at Canterbury Cathedral on the morning of December 25.

Luke 2:1-7

We are drawn to stories of freedom and purpose. In Star Wars an abandoned orphan on a desert planet turns into a knight leading the struggle for freedom. Platform 9 and three quarters takes Harry Potter into a world of magic and purpose.

Not so in the gospel stories, even those of Christmas. Yes, the shepherds see angels. Yes, Mary and Joseph have dreams and are chosen as special people.

Yet after the moments of miracles life goes on almost as before – the shepherds return to their sheep, Joseph settles back as a carpenter, Mary raises children. They flee as refugees, like over 60 million people today. Yet their story is the beginning of ours, it is an invitation to lives of freedom, found through God’s freely offered love.

Delivering freedom is usually seen as the role and the promise of political leaders. The French philosopher Rousseau famously started his book on the social contract by writing, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains “. But he goes on and sets out the problem that besets all offerings of freedom: “One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.”

In the manger is something completely different from all human strivings for freedom. The baby in the manger is a paradox from the first breath he draws in his mother’s arms to the last cry he utters on the cross. He is power seen in humility, and He offers freedom expressed in loving service.

It is this Christly paradox of freedom springing from the overflowing of love that leads to salvation, to the common good and human flourishing. There is no power in the universe stronger than God’s love and it is directed towards the liberation of human beings.

This liberation begins with the risky, counter-intuitive birth of God in the form of a baby of a teenage single mother, in a poor family in a war-torn country ruled by an infant slaughtering, family murdering psychopath. Jesus’ life continues mostly in obscurity and appears to ends in betrayal, abandonment and humiliating execution.

Even Jesus’ brief periods of fame, of celebration and decisive action look like God’s apparent mistakes. An host of angels appears to a bunch of shepherds. Shepherds were the low life in those days – the butt of many jokes. They were armed, used to fighting, lived rough and were often untrustworthy. Bethlehem is less than ten miles from Jerusalem, the angels could have announced the Messiah to the important and influential just down the road. Instead a bunch of shepherds confuse the sheep by leaving them, frighten the town police by entering Bethlehem, surprise a mother who was probably, having just given birth, not entirely in the mood for entertaining, and then return. One could be forgiven for thinking that this was a good plan badly executed.

Yet this is no mistake, but the greatest plan there ever could be, because this baby is the way God calls us to relationship with Him, to lives of purpose and to being witnesses that God is with us.

The manger offers a compelling invitation to life. Each year at Christmas we have a guest Carol service at Lambeth Palace. We hear from those who have recently begun to find the life Jesus offers. They come from all sorts of places, from people who have been trafficked into slavery to people who have known only power. Their stories of responding to the invitation of the manger born baby are the best part of my year.

Not only is the manger an invitation to life, but of life abundant, full and free. Mary is the second of God’s beautiful apparent mistakes. Surely, God should have chosen someone accustomed to the demands of a political life? Yet in Mary we see the kind of life that is ours when we accept the invitation of God. It is abundant, suffering, dramatic, but above all a life of fulfilling freedom. This divine-human leader Jesus does not subdue, or diminish His followers, but enables them to be all that a human being could be, to be truly liberated.

This self-emptying, helpless, stable born baby who is God has brought and continues to bring more freedom than all earth’s most powerful leaders. The nature of those who have power is to seek to hold onto it. In 2017 we have seen around the world tyrannical leaders that enslave their peoples, populist leaders that deceive them, corrupt leaders that rob them, even simply democratic, well intentioned leaders of many parties and countries who are normal, fallible human beings. We have experienced across our country terrorism that kills the innocent, claiming that it is the path to freedom in God.

The nature of God who has all power, and from whom all power comes, is to lay it aside for love’s sake and thus without fear, force or manipulation to offer true freedom for every human being. God is showing all truth in its completest form, all love in its purest aspect, the true light of freedom all wrapped up in the baby in Bethlehem.

The light needed witnesses at the beginning and needs them to this day. It is the calling of every Christian to be a witness to the light, in word and deed, in all circumstances.

In Coventry Cathedral is one of my favourite pictures, the Stalingrad Madonna. It was drawn on paper in charcoal on Christmas Day 1942, 75 years ago, by a German medical officer under siege from the advancing Russian armies near Stalingrad. It shows Mary huddled against the terrible cold, holding Jesus, sheltered, to her cheek. Round her are the words “Licht, leben, Liebe” (Light, Life, love). Christ offers life of true freedom in love, in the darkest places his light shines. Every human being is invited to share that life and freedom. Christians are its witnesses.

Pittsburgh bishop treks to China bearing a sentimental and historically significant gift

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 2:09pm

Bishop Dorsey McConnell of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh visited China in early December to give back a blanket, which Chairman Mao had given his father, to Chinese World War II historians and to build relationships with religious leaders in China. Photo: Diocese of Pittsburgh

[Episcopal News Service] It looks like a tiny, old blanket with deer on it. Nothing to warrant a pause or second glance.

Yet that small Mongolian saddle blanket, draped across a chair in Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell’s childhood home for decades, has crossed oceans multiple times, first from the hands of one of the world’s most famous political figures.

In September 1945, Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong had to fly from his base in Yunnan province to a tense conference with General Chiang Kai-shek of the Nationalist Party in Chongqing. This was about a month after Imperial Japan announced its surrender, one of the major actions to end World War II. For a moment, the United States was an ally of China’s against Japan.

The Allied Forces, which included China, the United States and Great Britain, are honored by this memorial featuring 2,000 military helmets at the World War II Museum in Tengchong, China. Photo:Niu Shuai of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

McConnell’s father, U.S. Gen. John Paul McConnell, was the pilot assigned to fly Mao to and from the conference — safely. Mao was visibly nervous that he’d never come back. The Nationalists, who had been hunting Mao for years, considered him a rebel and criminal. Mao hugged his wife at the airport, a public sign of affection not deemed appropriate in that culture at that time, McConnell explained.

The elder McConnell returned Mao safe and sound to Yunnan province after a disastrous conference that failed to produce any good solutions. To show his appreciation to his pilot, the chairman gave McConnell the deer blanket. It’s been in the McConnell family home ever since.

More than 70 years later, when religious officials and those from the World War II Museum in Tengchong and Martyrs Cemetery invited him to visit as they honored his father, McConnell knew he had to bring a gift.

He saw the blanket and decided that returning it to the Chinese people would be an appropriate and meaningful gift. McConnell’s Dec. 6-8 visit was an act of personal friendship and goodwill, despite all these years of deep division in political, philosophical, cultural and theological beliefs and practices between the two countries.

McConnell could tell the fact that he journeyed to meet these Chinese dignitaries and present them with this gift meant the world to them.

“I don’t think I’ve been more graciously received in any place in the world. It was breathtaking and very moving, for personal reasons as well as the promise it holds,” McConnell told ENS. “Personal-relationship building does something that states and diplomats can’t do. We had no political agenda. We were simply there to give back to them something precious that they had given us.”

Bishop Dorsey McConnell ceremoniously returns to officials at the World War II Museum in Tengchong, China, the blanket that Chairman Mao gave his father in 1945. Photo courtesy of Niu Shuai of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

There were elaborate dinners with much clinking of glasses, and each glass that made contact with McConnell’s was lower than his, in honor of and in deference to him, as is customary. Officials gave him a tour of the new museum, which has an impressive collection of about 80,000 artifacts.

Three walls are covered with 2,000 helmets from fallen Allied troops.

“And they’re all mixed together,” McConnell said. “You can see American helmets next to British helmets next to Chinese.”

Museum officials held the blanket with a curator’s care, using protective gloves. That blanket was precious to McConnell, but he recognized that it’s easy for stories to get lost in time.

Communist Party Chairman Mao gave this saddle blanket to U.S. General John Paul McConnell in 1945, as a token of appreciation for safely piloting him to and from a U.S.-organized conference with the Nationalists in China. Photo: Dorsey McConnell

“I didn’t want to see something with this much symbolic value to lose its place in history and end up in a garage sale held by one of my great-grandkids and sold for 5 bucks,” he said with a laugh. “Given to the museum, it will be taken care of and preserved.”

On the last day of his visit, McConnell visited the Three-Self Patriotic Movement headquarters, the Chinese government department that oversees all officially sanctioned religious activity, giving licenses to churches to function openly and vetting them to ensure they don’t undermine the goals of socialism. “Three-self” refers to the requirement that religious organizations be self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.

He met with the Rev. Melissa Lin, the deputy head of the China Christian Council, and her assistant Meiying Shi.

The council is the umbrella organization for all the recognized Protestant churches in China. Lin is also dean of the seminary in Nanjing, the country’s largest of 23 established seminaries. She earned a master of divinity from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Episcopal seminary in Berkeley, California.

McConnell toured the church next door, the former Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral, neglected for years but now restored. The cathedral has stained-glass windows in the apse donated by the Episcopal Church. The renovation has won a UNESCO world heritage award, and the council hopes to plant a worshiping congregation here next year, he said.

Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell gazes at the military helmets placed on three walls at the World War II Museum in Tengchong, China. Photo courtesy of Niu Shuai of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

McConnell was the first diocesan bishop from the Episcopal Church to pay a visit to Three-Self Patriotic Movement headquarters since Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s visit in February, said Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired. Ng helped arrange McConnell’s meeting with Chinese officials.

“It’s very important to keep relationships open,” Ng told ENS.

Nurturing relationships is a way to spread the gospel in a respectful manner, McConnell and Ng said. The “official” estimate is that there are 40 million Christians in China, and that number is growing, as churches have gained a bit more leeway in recent years, as long as they follow the rules. In a country of 1.4 billion people, the number of Protestant Christians in China has grown an average of 10 percent annually since 1979. Bible printing presses can’t keep up with demand, McConnell and Ng said.

McConnell also saw his visit as an act of reconciliation by an Episcopalian bishop. And reconciliation happens best on a personal level, McConnell said. Chinese culture places more emphasis on building friendships without immediately diving into business than American culture does, Ng and McConnell said, so taking the time for this visit meant a lot.

“It really struck me how deeply they took that in. You don’t have to use church talk; as a matter of fact, it’s a disadvantage. People know healing when they feel it. They know reconciliation when they see it and feel it. They could sense the authenticity of this moment,” McConnell said. “It’s sort of like St. Francis says: Preach the gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.”

— 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.

Teenagers use Advent pilgrimage to take message of hope across Central America

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 1:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of young people from Chimaltenango in Guatemala have undertaken an Advent pilgrimage of the five dioceses that make up the Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America – the Anglican Church in Central America. Led by their parish priest, Father Miguel Salanic, and his wife Roselia, the 14 teenagers visited Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama. They shared a message of unity, and sought to inspire other young people, the clergy and bishops they met. 

Read the entire article here.

A Christmas message from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 1:45pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Canterbury’s ecumenical Christmas letter to churches around the world.

“Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10)

Earlier this year I made a very moving visit to the Holy Land. Amid a busy schedule of meetings and visits there were some moments of stillness and prayerful encounter with the living God. At the traditional sites associated with Our Lord’s life, ministry, death and resurrection we were able to stop and to pray. In Nazareth we prayed with Mary, the Mother of God, at the site of the annunciation; in Bethlehem, amidst the activity of restoration works in the Church of the Nativity, we found that place of quiet where Christians come to venerate Jesus’ birth; in Jerusalem, in the restored aedicule within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre we rejoiced in the resurrection of our crucified Lord.

The gospel story, the saving story of Jesus Christ is good news indeed. The Gospel according to St Luke tells us the story of the good news announced to the Shepherds. On the hillsides above Bethlehem the Angel of the Lord appeared and brought good news. The good news was none other than the birth in Bethlehem of a Saviour, the Christ, the Lord.

This year we have learned a new phrase in various parts of the world. This phrase is ‘fake news’. Fake news is dishonest; it is deliberate misinformation published in order to deceive, to confuse and disrupt. Fake news is used as a weapon to achieve dishonest advantage and to subvert honest debate and discussion. It is the antithesis of the good news. Fake news is but lying and does not come from God.

But we like the Angels proclaim good news and, like the Shepherds, we receive good news. The good news is good news for all people, whatever their situation in life. It is good news for politicians and leaders but is also good news for the refugees and displaced persons who continue to flee from danger and seek safety and sanctuary. As St Gregory Nazianzen writes:

He who gives riches becomes poor, for he assumes the poverty of my flesh, that I may assume the richness of his Godhead. He that is full empties himself, for he empties himself of his glory for a short while, that I may have a share in his fullness. (Oration 38. 13)

This is truth and this is good news. As receivers of the good news we are called to pass on the good news and to make real the promise of that good news to those in need. In a poem reflecting on the evangelist St Luke, the poet and priest Malcolm Guite wrote:

“He breathes good news to all who bear a burden
Good news to all who turn and try again,
The meek rejoice and prodigals find pardon,
A lost thief reaches paradise through pain,
The voiceless find their voice in every word
And, with Our Lady, magnify Our Lord.”

(from “St Luke”, in Sounding the Seasons, (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2012))

This Christmas I pray that we might, as Christians with one voice, proclaim again the good news that is our salvation in Jesus Christ.

In His Peace
+Justin Cantuar

The Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

Companion dioceses work to rebuild Puerto Rico

Fri, 12/22/2017 - 10:21am

This hurricane-damaged statue at Lord at Mision la Santa Cruz in Puerto Rico inspires Episcopalians there and in the Diocese of Maryland in their ministry to help the island recover. Photo: Eugene Sutton

[Episcopal Diocese of Maryland] – The Dioceses of Maryland and Puerto Rico are committing to several years of hard work to rebuild Puerto Rico. Two killer hurricanes this past fall delivered devastation and privation. The fallout from those storms was felt and heard. Maryland and Puerto Rico have been companion dioceses since June 2016.

Churches and individuals in and outside the Diocese of Maryland responded to the call to raise money for its “Rebuild Puerto Rico” fund. More than $20,000 for immediate emergency needs was raised the month after Hurricane Maria’s knockout punch. So far, a total of $47,000 has been given.

Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton and the Rev. Canon Margarita Santana, Latino missioner in Maryland, presented the first of these funds last October to the Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales when they visited the island territory.

The Diocese of Puerto Rico now operates two centers for emergency relief and supplies, one at the Diocesan Center near San Juan, the other at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Ponce. During a post-hurricane visit by Morales to an especially devastated rural community, a parishioner declared: “somos una diócesis de la esperanz” (we are a diocese of hope). This became the rallying call for the people of the diocese; a mantra of resurrection faith, prayer and spirit-inspired action.

Sutton sent the Rev. James Snodgrass to the diocesan convention in Puerto Rico last month. Snodgrass read a letter from Sutton. For Snodgrass, it was a return trip to the diocese where he’s still canonically resident. He and his wife, Patty Parsley, spent 5 ½ years as missioners in the rural, mountainous region of Aibonito. They founded a retreat center and new mission congregation before moving to Baltimore in 2012.

Sutton asked Snodgrass to assess the damage done seven weeks earlier. Damage was extensive to vegetation, landscape and buildings — huge trees uprooted, wooden structures demolished.  When the sun set, some places had electrical service, often provided by generators; many places were surrounded by darkness, some lit by a candle or abandoned. Snodgrass recalled the words of John’s Gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

On an island with a high density of automobiles and 9 percent of the population living in urban areas, driving without traffic signals, especially at night, was harrowing. In some places, foliage had reappeared; debris had been collected along the roadsides; and businesses had reopened. In other places, especially among the very poor, destruction lingered. People were worn down.

During the 110th Asamblea Diocesana (diocesan convention), Morales, newly consecrated in July, delivered a hope-filled address to the delegates. He thanked all who’ve responded to emergency needs, encouraging all to pitch-in and reach out, outlining his vision and priorities for the diocese in the foreseeable future. He proclaimed a new Christian year, that began with Advent, as “El Año de Discipulado” (the Year of Discipleship). And he concluded: “Nuestra iglesia es dinámica, misionera y evangelizadora” (our church is dynamic, mission-oriented and evangelizing).

It was said this diocesan convention was one of the most upbeat, well-organized and harmonious in recent memory.

After the convention, Morales told Snodgrass his top priority is to complete the retreat center, Centro Espíritu Santo, in Aibonito. It would serve the clergy and people of Puerto Rico, as well as those from the United States and beyond. The project would entail building a church and overnight facilities. Morales and Sutton have discussed this project, and how, as companion dioceses, working together and with God’s help, it can happen.

Morales enthusiastically agreed to a proposed parish-based mission work project in Aibonito, sponsored by St. John’s Church, Havre de Grace, Maryland, and led by Snodgrass, who is priest-in-charge there. The group will stay in a church-owned house, pray daily and cook their own meals, repair damaged houses in the surrounding neighborhood and plant new trees. The group expects to go in early March.

The experiences of this initial group will help the Diocese of Maryland advise other church groups interested in going to the island to help in the physical and spiritual restoration and rebuilding effort. Canon Rafael Zorilla, canon to the ordinary, oversees all groups coming to Puerto Rico. He told Snodgrass he’s overwhelmed by requests from church groups around the U.S. wanting to come and help. He asked the Diocese of Maryland to develop a screening process and recommend which groups come to Puerto Rico. Those groups would then be partnered with a church in Puerto Rico, and together work out travel and work project arrangements. He stressed that groups coming to Puerto Rico need someone who speaks Spanish.

When Sutton visited Puerto Rico in October he saw a statue of our Lord at Mision la Santa Cruz. It reminded him of the words of Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” The hands on the statue were missing. It was Sutton’s hope the Diocese of Maryland would become the hands of Christ together with its sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico.

— The Rev. Dan Webster is canon for evangelism and media in the Diocese of Maryland.

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