Episcopal News Service

Subscribe to Episcopal News Service feed
The official news service of the Episcopal Church.
Updated: 19 min 11 sec ago

Anglican school in Sri Lanka welcomes British royal visitors

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 11:01am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Sri Lankan Anglican school founded in 1872 by a priest working for the Church Missionary Society was this week visited by the Earl and Countess of Wessex – Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. Trinity College in Kandy was founded as the Kandy Collegiate School by the Rev. Richard Collins in what was then British Ceylon. Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth II, is visiting Sri Lanka with his wife on behalf of the queen as part of celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Read the full article here.

Martyred Ugandan archbishop honored in church’s new finance building

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 10:55am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A new 16-story commercial office suite in the heart of Uganda’s financial district will carry the name of martyred Archbishop Janani Luwum.

The building, to be known as Janani Luwum Church House, was first envisioned by Archbishop Luwum before he was murdered on the orders of Idi Amin in February 1977. The building, which is being constructed by the Church of Uganda with the support of the Kenyan-based Equity Bank, will provide an income stream to support the ministry of the province.

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop tours Houston-area congregations, offers support in aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 5:45pm

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry talks with the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in west Houston, a church that sustained major damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] During Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s visit to the Diocese of Texas on Jan. 30 and 31, clergy and church members shared stories of Hurricane Harvey’s epic flooding and aftermath.

In some places, Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain in four days last August, and its impact was felt across 41 counties and a half million homes, with damages estimated at more than $190 billion.

The storm that caused such historic flooding seemed hard to imagine this week in Houston as clear skies and mild temperatures greeted the presiding bishop and his team. Curry was joined by Sharon Jones, his executive coordinator; Episcopal Relief & Development Senior Vice President for Programs Abigail Nelson, and Geoffrey Smith, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church.

Once the debris is hauled away, things can seem pretty normal, until one walks into the nave of a church, looks through the studs to classrooms, offices and the parish hall beyond and has to be careful to avoid tripping over large bolts in the bare concrete floor that once secured the altar railing. Five months after Harvey, in many churches and thousands of homes there remains the odor of floodwaters, and mold still seeks a foothold.

Episcopal Health Foundation made an early decision to deploy its resources into research, President and CEO Elena Marks told Curry at an early morning briefing on Jan. 30. The Health Foundation partnered with the Kaiser Foundation to survey the area affected by Harvey and mapped the storm’s impact to show where damage was concentrated and who was most affected.

“It’s not just research and maps,’’ Marks emphasized. “We wanted to engage communities and are making presentations to groups doing relief work with the hope that they will use data to set their priorities.” The resulting maps and research already have been accessed more than 30,000 times.

The research reveals some things that deserve a closer look. Shao-Chee Sim, vice president of applied research at the Episcopal Health Foundation, said of the 900,000 relief applications filed with Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, the approval rate for homeowners was 45 percent, while it was 36 percent for renters.  In the upscale Memorial area of west Houston, 66 percent of the 2000 applications filed had been approved.

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle said the data will help Episcopalians and others provide a different kind of disaster response. “We want to leverage the research to help the most vulnerable, to have a long-term effect within these communities,” he said.

East of Houston, the area of Beaumont, Orange and Port Arthur—known as the Golden Triangle—received more than 60 inches of rain during Harvey.

Curry heard from the Rev. Keith Giblin, a federal judge and bi-vocational Episcopal priest, who serves St. Paul’s in Orange, where 86 percent of the homes were affected. Cut off from his congregation during the storm, Giblin navigated drainage ditches in Beaumont to rescue people in his aluminum fishing boat. He was among thousands of citizens who joined first responders to spend days and nights searching for people trapped in sometimes neck-deep water.

“We had to drag the boats in places because the water could be 13 inches deep, sometimes four feet deep,” Giblin said. Submerged cars, floating clumps of fire ants, downed power lines and water moccasins plagued those who used boats, kayaks and pool floats to rescue victims.

After the “utter chaos” of the flooding, Giblin said, St. Paul’s, which had water in the church, parish hall and offices, held services out in the yard for more than a month. “Serving together [through this disaster] has brought us all closer,” he said. “That’s what we do, we help each other.”

Other Episcopal churches in Beaumont became distribution centers for water and cleaning supplies. The Rev. Tony Clark, rector of St. Mark’s, said after checking on the congregation and providing immediate relief to those in need, his vestry put the church gymnasium to good use for the community. “We were a warehouse, a hotel and a parking lot,” he said. “The thrift shop provided care packages. We warehoused supplies and hosted 75 Red Cross volunteers for several weeks in lieu of being a public shelter.”

St. Stephen’s rector, the Rev. Stephen Balke, thanked Curry for the video he recorded after the storm to offer prayers and support. “We gathered to worship and put your video up. I can’t tell you how much that rallied our spirits,” he said.

The congregation helped the more than two dozen parishioners whose homes were flooded and cooked for the entire community for weeks.

“We stopped counting at 4,000 people served,” Balke said. “Every time our supplies ran low, another truck would pull up. It was a great blessing to say, ‘Yes,’ when people needed help.”

The Rev. Lacy Largent, in charge of spiritual care teams, emphasized that support from elsewhere was critical. She gave the example of Kate Hello, a teacher in Lamay, Missouri, who sent letters from her students.

“I gave a letter to a man to read and he broke down in tears,” Largent said. “I apologized for upsetting him, but he said, ‘No! You helped me cry. I’m going to get my wife so you can help her cry.’”

While trauma in the immediate aftermath of the flood ran deep, for many it has become more profound months later. “No one had flood insurance,” Giblin said. “This has never happened before and now we have senior citizens who can’t come back financially. They are using their Social Security checks to buy drywall.”

The Rev. Pat Richie, deacon at St. Stephens, said she is seeing more family trauma today. People—children especially—are experiencing some post-traumatic shock. “When it rains now, kids want to know if Harvey is coming back. It’s a wound that is still there.”

The process of rebuilding was compared to a marathon rather than a sprint, and Curry affirmed Episcopal Church’s long-term support. “We are long distance runners,” he said.

During a stop at Trinity, Baytown, the presiding bishop heard from Senior Warden Robert Jordan and one couple he rescued.

“I was in the water for five days doing search and rescue,” Jordan told Curry. He happened to be near church members Duane and Lois Luallin’s home of 40 years, when he learned the elderly couple needed help.

Duane had fallen and was unable to get up, and 911 responders were overwhelmed. Jordan arrived in five minutes and ferried the Luallins to safety. He had them dry out and eat at his home, where they stayed for nearly a month before moving to an apartment.

“You think the Lord left us? No, he was right there with us,” Lois Luallin said. “People brought boxes, packed things, took our wash and dry cleaning. We could not have done all that by ourselves.”

Lois Luallin, left, tells Curry how she and her husband, Duane, were rescued by Trinity Episcopal Church’s senior warden, Robert Jordan, in Baytown as flood waters from Harvey rose in their home of 40 years. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Trinity also fed first responders breakfast and provided food at all hours for anyone who was hungry.

“Bishop Curry, you can be encouraged that the Jesus Movement is alive at Trinity,” said the Rev. Micki Rios, Trinity’s deacon.

During his visit to Texas, Curry and his team also met with Hispanic clergy from the Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo in southwest Houston.

The Rev. Janssen Gutierrez, rector of San Mateo, had just begun his new job when Harvey took out four of the campus’ six buildings. The congregation of 300 to 400 worshipped in tents for two months and actually saw an increase in their numbers, Gutierrez said.

The Rev. Pedro Lopez, vicar of Iglesia San Pedro, in southeast Houston, described neighbors helping neighbors. “We became a food distributor for almost two months,” he said. “The church was central to helping people find what they needed. Thousands of people came.”

Diocese of Texas Bishop Andy Doyle, right, looks on cellphones are used to snap photos of Bishop Curry posing with members of Iglesia Episcopal San Mateo. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Curry thanked church members who had prepared a large breakfast of papusas, plantains and homemade red beans on the second morning of his visit.

He reminded them that Jesus always fed people before he would teach them.

“During trying times, when the church is open to offer support, that’s feeding folks,” he said. “When you are helping people get their cars fixed so they can get to work, that’s feeding folks. Thank you for what you have done. I want to offer the love, affection and prayers of your brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. They stand ready to join you in the work of rebuilding.”

Curry also toured St. Thomas Episcopal Church in southwest Houston where the group was entertained briefly by several bagpipe students’ practice in the courtyard. The church and school of 600 students was hit hard by flood waters for the third time in two years. Much of the school will be rebuilt as a result.

The group concluded their tour of affected areas at Emmanuel Church, hosted by the rector, the Rev. Andy Parker. Emmanuel’s buildings are bare after the campus flooded when water from the reservoirs was released in the days after Harvey. Everything has been taken down to the studs, and the exterior will also be replaced.

Members of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s team, Diocese of Texas staff and members of Emmanuel and Temple Sinai gather to offer prayers at the conclusion of the presiding bishop’s pastoral visit to areas affected by Harvey. Photo: Carol Barnwell

Emmanuel’s congregation continues to worship at nearby Temple Sinai where the sacredness of placing a temporary altar over the bema, from where to Torah is read, is not lost on anyone.

“It’s been a blessing every week,” Rabbi Annie Belford said, although she admits some of her congregation wondered at having a cross in their sanctuary. “The partnership of the heart is incredible. It’s what we do for our neighbors.’”

Rabbi Annie Belford of Temple Sinai, left, and the Rev. Andy Parker, rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Houston pose with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during Curry’s visit to Emmanuel. Belford contacted Parker immediately after Emmanuel flooded during the release of water from Houston’s reservoirs last August to offer worship space at Temple Sinai. Photo: Carol Barnwell

That blessing goes both ways, Belford found. “In the course of all this, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and the women of Emmanuel handmade her a quilt so she is sleeping every night wrapped in the prayers of Emmanuel Church.”

The presiding bishop asked all of the people with whom he met what they wanted to tell fellow Episcopalians. To a person, everyone acknowledged that receiving prayers and support from others had kept them going.

Lance Ferguson, newly elected senior warden at Emmanuel, said, “We’ve had help from around the world. We didn’t do it alone, and that’s been an eye-opener for people here. You can get through anything if you know you have support,” he said.

Surveys done by Episcopal Relief & Development after Harvey showed that in just a few months, and with the financial support and supplies from Episcopalians throughout the country and the world, the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Texas had served more than 90,000 people affected by the storm.

“We stand on your shoulders,” said Richie, the St. Stephen’s deacon. “It’s the strength of the wider church that allows work to be done here.”

Curry encouraged the group gathered to worship at Emmanuel. “You, we, are not alone, even if it feels like it sometimes,” Curry said. “We were made for God and each other, and even in midst of hell there can be glimpses of heaven when we are not alone,” he said, noting the many times neighbors have come to the aid of neighbors during and after the waters of Harvey.

Going forward, the church’s mission will pivot to restoration and rebuilding, and that will take much support, from Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Texas and beyond. The Rev. Stacy Stringer has been named director of hurricane recovery to oversee regional centers in the affected areas that will help coordinate rebuilding efforts that are estimated to take two to three years.

“We are so grateful for Bishop Curry’s pastoral visit and for the assurances of continued prayers and support from across the church that he brought,” Doyle said. “We, too, continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who have been affected by hurricanes, fires and mud slides. It is in times such as these, that our community of believers shines the brightest.”

– Carol Barnwell is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

Vermont: Burlington’s urban cathedral meets massive change with bold imaginings

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 3:03pm

Members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group are pictured from left to right: John Rouleau, Jenny Sisk, Lisa Schnell, Jeanne Finan, Lee Williams, Paul Van de Graaf, and Josh Brown.

[The Episcopal Church in Vermont] Amid the bustle of construction in the heart of downtown Burlington, VT, there is no denying that the city is changing. To some, the latest architectural developments are outward expressions of cultural shifts that have been remaking the local landscape for some time. With this in mind, members of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul have been exploring the best ways to serve the community as it navigates these shifting internal and external dynamics.

The crux of their efforts has been the Urban Cathedral Study, a research project that has for the past 12 months challenged cathedral members to reimagine the meaning of church and its viability for people who may or may not have any religious leanings. The next phase of the Urban Cathedral project, which begins in February, will empower the congregation to move from imagining to planning.

As published in the January 2018 Urban Cathedral Report, when the members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group began their work a year ago, they decided that planning the future of the cathedral would, in fact, be excluded from their scope. Instead, their aim was “to spend an entire year learning what it means to be an urban cathedral in Burlington by reading, listening and asking questions.” They wanted “to avoid any tendencies toward the prescriptive by remaining open and interrogative” in their approach.

The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan, cathedral dean, explained, “With the Urban Cathedral Study, we wanted to look at what it means to be an urban cathedral in the 21st century, particularly in Burlington. We needed to know more about who we are, not only from our own inside view, but also by asking people in the community, everyone from the mayor to other religious leaders to city council members and so forth.”

In a recent communication to the cathedral, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wrote, “I appreciate participating in St. Paul’s examination about its future as an urban cathedral. I look forward to seeing how St. Paul’s will become part of the new Cherry Street.”

This positive sentiment has been echoed by Rabbi Amy Small of Burlington’s Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, as well as urbanites outside Burlington who have faced similar challenges and have recognized the wider implications of the Urban Cathedral Study as a best practice, including the Rev. Anne B. Bonnyman, rector of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Rev. Scott Gunn, director of Forward Movement based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Several members of the Urban Cathedral Study Group presented a creative summary of their progress during the cathedral’s Jan. 21 Annual Meeting. In a series of stories titled Bold Imaginings, the presenters described future possibilities inspired by their year-long practice of reading, listening and questioning.

The Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, said, “We are so fortunate that the Urban Cathedral Study Group has worked so faithfully to bring this report and their Bold Imaginings to us.”

“The Urban Cathedral project is a powerful example of what it means to be a missional church in Vermont, where being missional is about changing, adapting, innovating and improvising to move more deeply into the neighborhoods and communities where we live and move and have our being.”

“The next step,” explains Finan, “will be a presentation to the congregation on February 11 where church members can reflect on the Bold Imaginings and the Urban Cathedral Study, ask additional questions of the Urban Cathedral Study Group, and — under the vestry’s guidance — begin planning for the future.”

The Episcopal Church in Vermont comprises 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State that share in the mission to pray the prayer of Christ, to learn the mind of Christ, and to do the deeds of Christ. The congregations live into this mission through ministries of Formation, Liberation, Communication, Connection, and Celebration. The Episcopal Church in Vermont is a member of the worldwide Anglican communion. Learn more at http://diovermont.org.

— Maurice L. Harris is communications minister for The Episcopal Church in Vermont.

Anglican Alliance launches global focus on anti-slavery initiatives in Freedom Year

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 12:18pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Alliance, which helps to coordinates Anglican churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and justice, has launched a yearlong focus on anti-slavery initiatives across the Communion. Through its Freedom Year initiative, the Alliance is inviting people to learn more about human trafficking and modern slavery in the world today, pray for change, and take action to end it.

Read the full article here.

NYC Episcopal churches call for increased mental health crisis training after parishioner’s shooting death by police

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 5:58pm

[Episcopal News Service] Deborah Danner didn’t have to die.

In October 2016, the Episcopalian had a psychotic episode at her Bronx, New York, apartment. It wasn’t the first time that police responded to a disturbance complaint about Danner, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago. In the past, 911 calls resulted in Danner taking a trip to the hospital, returning home stabilized.

This time, however, gunshots rang out. And Danner, 66, was gone.

New York Police Department Sgt. Hugh Barry was charged with murder and manslaughter because prosecutors say he didn’t have a reasonable threat to his life and wasn’t following police protocol. His trial began Jan. 30, more than a year later. After a one-day break, the trial is expected to resume Feb. 1.

Deborah Danner

Episcopal church members plan to be in the courtroom every day in a show of support, said the Rev. Matthew Heyd, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan. He knew Danner for the last 10 years.

On that first day in the courtroom, about 35 parishioners from Manhattan churches, including Church of the Heavenly Rest, Trinity Church Wall Street, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Harlem, and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, marched to the Bronx courthouse. She attended all those churches at one time or another.

“It’s hard because the trial is about tragedy, both the tragedy of her killing and the tragedy of mental illness being unaddressed,” Heyd told Episcopal News Service. “And it’s hopeful, because the church is organizing, both to recognize the dignity of her life and to respond and give meaning to her struggle and to support others who are struggling with mental illness also.”

Parishioners and clergy were also there to bring home the point that law enforcement officers, in New York and nationwide, need much more training in handling mental health crises. New York officers can take Crisis Intervention Team training, but fewer than a quarter of the force has. It’s not required.

In 2016, NYPD received approximately 157,000 calls involving people in mental crisis, according to the city inspector general’s January report reviewing how the NYPD handles interactions with people in mental crisis.

That’s about 430 mental crisis calls a day.

“How many times a day is an officer at a door and doesn’t know what’s going on inside and how to handle it?” Heyd asked. “However the trial turns out, the need for more skill and support in this is abundantly clear.”

Nationwide, police officers in 2015 shot and killed 251 people who had exhibited signs of mental illness — a quarter of all the people shot and killed by police that year, the report stated. Alternatively, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered that 1,710 law enforcement officers nationwide were assaulted while handling people with mental illness, and two officers were killed while doing so.

“We share your conviction that Deborah’s death was a tragedy that should have been prevented,” the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche, bishop of the Diocese of New York, wrote in a Jan. 18 letter to New York Mayor Bill De Blasio. “And we believe that Crisis Intervention [Team] training for this officer and for his fellow officers could have saved Deborah’s life.”

Diocesan representatives are calling to meet with the mayor, as well as police, to discuss this mental health crisis issue.

The Rev. Winnie Varghese, priest and director of justice and reconciliation at Trinity Church Wall Street, also attended Barry’s criminal trial Jan. 30. Churches across the United States regularly minister to people who have mental illness, and often come upon people in a state of crisis who need professionals to help de-escalate the situation, she said.

“Until we have a better health system in New York, our police are our front line for mental health emergencies; if people are trained correctly, we can solve this,” Varghese told ENS. “These folks aren’t committing a crime; they’re sick. It puts police officers in a horrible position, and it puts people who are ill in a horrible position. It makes everyone vulnerable.”

“This isn’t about vengeance. It’s about how do we change this situation,” she said.

Varghese and Heyd said the church can’t handle the problem alone. Increased police training makes the most sense. It’s a cause they’re fighting for so that they don’t lose more parishioners this way.

Heyd knew Danner pretty well while she attended both Heavenly Rest and Trinity.

“She knit baby blankets for both my children,” Heyd said. “She was really smart and kind, and she struggled. All of that was evident to people who knew her.”


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.

‘We want a local bishop’ say Ethiopian Anglicans

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:39am

[Anglican Communion News Service] Anglicans in the Gambella district of Ethiopia have expressed a desire that their next bishop be local. Within the Anglican Communion, Ethiopia is part of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Read the entire article here.

Bishop launches TV commercial in support of exiled South Sudanese school students

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 11:34am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The assistant bishop of Melbourne has produced a TV commercial urging people to give South Sudanese exiles a “safe start” to the school year.

Read the entire article here.