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Diocese of Atlanta clergy, laity renew vows at Martin Luther King Jr.’s church

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 11:00am

Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Robert C. Wright speaks to clergy and laity at a renewal of vows services held at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

[Diocese of Atlanta] Clergy and laity of the Diocese of Atlanta gathered this week for their renewal of vows in the sanctuary of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father and grandfather preached.

Bishop Robert C. Wright, whose diocese also includes middle and north Georgia, said he sought permission to use the site because of its connection to the civil rights movement leader and the recognition of the humanity of all Americans.

“Being that we are all Georgians now, and that Martin’s and Coretta’s earthly remains are laying just outside, it seems good to stop here and remember, and maybe even borrow some of their resolve for service,” Wright said, motioning toward the site outside the church where King and his wife are buried. “More than that, I invited you here because there are three important ideas that are easy to illustrate in this space. They are simple but eternal ideas. They are possibility, pain and power.”

Wright said the small sanctuary that launched King to the international stage is a powerful symbol of possibility.

“The local parish is still the hope of the world. If that sounds like too much to say, look around. This is a totally average parish. Still, from this place a soul was equipped to confront pharaohs, mobilize people and call a nation to its better self,” Wright said.

Since his ordination in 2012, Wright has focused renewal services on the diocese’s relationship with other denominations and religions and its mission to the world. Services have been held in a homeless shelter, a Jewish synagogue and at a parish church where a Muslim preached, and when held at the diocese’s Cathedral of St. Philip, the services have featured a choir from a women’s prison, preachers from other denominations and, once, a foot washing.

Ebenezer Baptist Church is the church in Atlanta where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father and grandfather preached. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

Ebenezer Baptist Church, a national historic site not normally used for services, was opened to the diocese by Ebenezer Baptist’s current pastor, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, Wright’s friend and fellow advocate for social justice.

Wright called for clergy and laity to actively seek new possibilities for sharing Jesus’ message in the world.

“When we renew our vows today perhaps what needs renewing is not our intention to be faithful to our respective vows. Perhaps what needs renewing is our sense of possibility,” Wright said. “Maybe what is needed is for us to grasp again a God-sized sense of what is possible.

Standing behind King’s pulpit, adjacent to the organ where King’s mother was shot and killed, Wright said holding the service at Ebenezer highlighted current faith issues, such as gun violence.

“What I want to point out here is, this place knows pain. It’s in the walls and the wood,” he said. “And if you’ll acknowledge that, then maybe in the spirit of fellowship, you could acknowledge your own pain in this place. Or at least pledge to.

“Why? Because to renew our vows without acknowledging pain, sorrow and profound disappointment as we endeavor to be faithful is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.”

Wright urged those at the service to breathe in the sanctuary’s history for their spiritual renewal.

“If anything gets renewed today, let it be our ability to stay curious even in our pain recognizing that God uses everything for learning and for the benefit of the world,” he said. “If anything gets renewed today, let it be our courage to be foolish for a God who makes life out of death, light out of darkness, and turns the cowering into conquerors.”

– Don Plummer is director of media and community relations for the Diocese of Atlanta.

Moving deeper into Holy Week, Presiding Bishop visits Bethlehem, Nazareth

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 6:14am

Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jordan and Patriarchal Commission to Bethlehem Theophylaktos leads Presiding Bishop Michael Curry through a courtyard as they make their way to his office in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Very Rev. Hosam Naoum, dean of Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem, is at right. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Bethlehem and Nazareth] The gift of spending Holy Week in the Holy Land grew deeper and more real on March 28 for those on pilgrimage with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

In a small sample of the ecumenical hospitality that the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem both enjoys and offers, Curry and those traveling with him were the guests of Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jordan and Patriarchal Commission to Bethlehem Theophylaktos in Bethlehem. The group traveled there at his invitation to hold Morning Prayer in the St. George’s Chapel at the Church of the Nativity and meet with him. He also welcomed them to pray in the Grotto of the Nativity below the church, which is undergoing extensive renovation and conservation.

Theophylaktos later offered the group sweets, short glasses of brandy and small cups of Arabic coffee during the early-morning conversation in his office in the new, 250-year-old wing of the Church of the Nativity. The older part of the church is 500 years old. His office walls were lined with religious icons, as well as an icon symbolizing the 2 million pilgrims who annually visit the church: a flat-screen TV with nine camera views of the shrine. Five church groups had arrived at 5 a.m. that morning to tour the church.

Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jordan and Patriarchal Commission to Bethlehem Theophylaktos lights candles in St. George’s Chapel at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The archbishop opened the chapel to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and those traveling with him to have Morning Prayer on Holy Wednesday. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“It is a joy to be with you and to meet you,” Curry told Theophylaktos. “And I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in the Episcopal Church. We pray the blessings of the crucified and risen Lord on your ministry.

“We pray for you and for peace and justice in the whole world. We must learn to live as brothers and sisters.”
Curry addressed political realities in the United States, saying “our country is very troubled right now.

“Interestingly enough it is young people and young children who are raising their voices and calling for our country to live in love,” Curry said, adding in an allusion to the setting of the conversation, “it may be that as the Bible says, a little child shall lead them – again.”

Theophylaktos responded, “We must pray.”

Young people at Christ School, a ministry of Christ Church, the Anglican parish in Nazareth, later in the day spoke to the group about their efforts to make peace among Muslim, Jewish and Christian young people. To that end, Jerusalem Peacebuilders, which has roots in the diocese, promotes what it calls “transformational, person-to-person encounters among the young people of Jerusalem, the United States and the Holy Land.” Moreover, it provides them with the opportunities, relationships and skills to become future leaders for peace in the global community.

Jerusalem Peacebuilders also oversees three youth leadership programs in New Haven, Connecticut; Houston, Texas, and Brattleboro, Vermont. Each camp runs two weeks and includes leadership skills, dialogues, guest speakers and a faith-based component. Participants who complete all three years become counselors in the programs to further strengthen and develop their leadership and peace-building knowledge and skills.

The United Thank Offering recently gave the group’s regional director, Jack Karn, a 2018 Young Adult Grant of $2,500 to help fund new in-school leadership and peacebuilding programs in the Galilee area of the Holy Land where Nazareth is located. Karn is from the Diocese of Vermont.

One young Palestinian Arab student told the group that he joined the organization because, as a Muslim, he wanted to build peace.

“I want my country to be back. I want Palestine and I want a solution to all the violence,”  Yousef Hassan said.

Some members of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem’s Jerusalem Peacebuilders talk with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry after their presentation at Christ School, a ministry of Christ Church, the Anglican parish in Nazareth. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

He also said the program has helped him know himself better and become “a calmer person.” Because of all that goes on where he lives, he said, “it’s really hard to be a peaceful person or a calm person. Most people are really aggressive.”

Another Christian student, Ghenwa Abu Ahmad, said the camp experience taught her to see herself in others. “You see how similar you are, despite our differences in appearances or religion,” she said.

At the Church of the Nativity, Theophylaktos spoke of the peaceful relationship between his church and Anglicans, which is long-standing. While the Very Rev. Hosam Naoum, dean of Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem, translated for the archbishop, Theophylaktos used English to emphasize his point.

“We have a special love for Anglicans,” Theophylaktos said in English.

“They never hesitate to welcome us,” Naoum said. “When we come here, it is like coming home.”

The dean explained that when Anglicans arrived in the Holy Land in the 1840s, they acknowledged the Greek Orthodox patriarch. To this day, the Anglican religious leader of Jerusalem is referred to as the “Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem” instead of the “Anglican archbishop of Jerusalem,” in deference to the Greek Orthodox leader, Naoum said. When a new Anglican archbishop is enthroned, the patriarch participates in the service to bless him.

Those ecumenical relations extend to the Armenian Orthodox as well, especially during their Holy Week, which this year begins on April 1, the Western Church’s date for Easter. Naoum said the Armenians consider Maundy Thursday to be the climax of Holy Week. As symbol of the relationship, the Armenian leaders invite the Anglican archbishop, currently the Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, to their liturgy that day, vesting him as an Armenian bishop and having him proclaim the Gospel.

During the Western Church’s Holy Week, the Armenians give Anglicans access to the Abraham Chapel in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre for an afternoon Eucharist. That liturgy is not possible this Holy Week because the chapel is part of the church’s extensive renovation project. The church in the Old City enshrines Calvary and the empty tomb.

Naoum said it is a special experience to spend Holy Week where those events took place. “As one of the clergy here puts it, the history of salvation unites with the geography of salvation,” he said. “Those dimensions are important for the people of this place. It is not taken for granted. Those dimensions are real.”

Later at the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Franciscan priest Peter Hughes made the same point as he explained the centuries of ruins that were uncovered as the current church was built in the 1960s, a continuation of centuries of enshrining the grotto where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary. The excavations have yielded parts of a 1st century building in which some members of what was then a sect of Christ-following Jews worshipped, a later basilica and the church built by the Crusaders.

“The interesting thing in the Holy Land, in terms of our ministry, is to show that [the centuries of] continuous Christian devotion are also supported by physical archeological evidence.”

“They knew something,” Curry agreed. “There’s a reason they were doing it there.”

After Presiding Bishop Michael Curry prayed in the small Grotto of the Nativity shrine at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a small boy approaches him for a hug. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Naoum said, “the challenge is how much we can keep that sacred” so that the week’s liturgies and other events remain as acts of worship rather than performance.

“It is a gift and we need to keep it holy,” he added.

Still, religious tourism is part of the Holy Land economy, and at Christ School, the group heard from two 10th graders Sham Abuliel and Luna Khoury, and their teacher, Yemen Rock, about an Android app they and eight other students have developed as a mobile guide for pilgrims in Nazareth. They plan to market the app, in part, by selling chocolate bars, called Nazareth Chocolate, whose wrapper will have information about the app. It will also soon be available in the Apple App Store, Rock said.

Curry was in the fifth day of a Holy Week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Previous ENS coverage of his travels can be found here. Dawani invited Curry to make a Holy Week pilgrimage through the Holy Land.

The presiding bishop is accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

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

Hong Kong confirmed for Anglican Consultative Council’s 17th meeting in spring 2019

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 4:26pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The 17th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, or ACC, will take place in Hong Kong from April 28 to May 5, 2019, it was confirmed March 28. The ACC is one of the Anglican Communion’s four “Instruments of Communion” and the only one that includes laity amongst its number. Through its triennial meetings, the ACC and its standing committee sets the agenda for the international work of the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Communion Office, and it helps to coordinate intra-Communion joint action and programs across a range of issues.

Read the full article here.

Ireland’s proposed abortion law change is unacceptable, archbishops say

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 4:24pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishops of Armagh and Dublin have said that a proposed change to the Republic of Ireland’s abortion law is “not an ethical position we can accept.” They urge church members in the Republic of Ireland to “think through the issues involved carefully and with prayer” before voting on a referendum, set to take place in May, which could ease the country’s constitutional ban on abortions.

Read the full article here.

‘Working like Christ,’ Diocese of Jerusalem tries to heal and teach all who seek help

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 12:49pm

Some of the children enrolled in St. Matthew’s kindergarten in Zababdeh in the West Bank gather around the altar at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church for a photo. Photo: Mary Frances/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – East Jerusalem and the West Bank] The Rev. Saleem Dawani, the vicar of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Zababdeh in the West Bank, describes his parish’s ministry this way: “Here we work like Christ, healing and teaching.”

That sentiment is echoed in all 10 medical missions and 17 educational ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his group learned March 27 as they visited three of those locations.

The day began at the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center, on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, which works to empower children with disabilities and their families and help them integrate into the wide society. The center concentrates on physical rehabilitation but also works on certain mental disabilities and tries to empower mothers to aid in their children’s rehabilitation. It is one of the four major rehabilitation centers in Palestine.

Laila Dawani, the 1-year-old daughter of the Rev. Saleem Dawani, vicar of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Zababdeh, looks out from the arms of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry during his visit to the church in the majority-Christian town in the West Bank. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Children from the West Bank and Gaza stay at the center with their mothers for two to three weeks of intensive therapy, while those from Jerusalem come for daily sessions. Mothers become “shadow therapists,” learning how to help their children, and they leave the center with an individual care plan, according to Ibrahim Faltas, general director. The Episcopal Church’s United Thank Offering and the Islamic Development Bank paid for the renovation of the Child Rehabilitation Department.

“We keep them here as little time as possible,” Faltas said, explaining that the center’s goal is to help children return to their communities.

Of the 423 children who were treated last year, only nine came from Gaza. Moreover, children in the West Bank cannot reach the center because of the Israeli government’s separation barrier, as well as the lack of money to cover the travel costs. Thus, a multidisciplinary team from the center visits 15 daycare and smaller rehabilitation centers all over the West Bank about 60 times a year. More than 1,000 children are seen annually. The team also trains local practitioners.

The center also has an autism unit doing pioneering work in multi-sensory and musical therapy, an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder program and vocational training for adults.

The center runs a school for Jerusalem children in kindergarten through grade 12 that includes both abled-bodied students and those with disabilities. The center calls it an “inclusive school” because, while some children receive therapy due to their disabilities, most of the students attend academic classes together. Current enrollment stands at 423, with 164 of those students having some sort of physical, mental or learning disability.

“This is miracle work,” Curry told staff members during his visit.

Ibrahim Faltas, general director of the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center, says the ministry of the Anglican diocese operates despite the political and financial realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

The center performs these miracles while constantly worrying about money. Treatment referrals come from both the Israeli and Palestinian government ministries, and Faltas said neither government pays enough for the cost of the children’s care. The center always has an annual operating deficit before fundraising money comes in, Faltas said, because government reimbursements cover only 70 to 75 percent of the costs. Some programs have been cut or eliminated, and when people complain Faltas said he tells them to “go be upset with those decision-makers.”

Not only are the reimbursement formulas not high enough, but the Palestinian Authority does not have the money to make timely payments, in part because the United States has not made good on its promised money and so the center has a cash-flow deficit of about $1.2 million, he said. That amounts to about four months of operating revenue. Over the years, the diocese has taken on what Faltas called the “heavy burden” of helping cover the financial gap.

“They believe this is very important,” he said. “It would be an ethical challenge to the church to neglect those children. We cannot refuse children for treatment.”

There is a hope, he said, that the center can form enough new partnerships that it can reduce its annual fundraising needs to 15 percent of its budget instead of the current 30 percent.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry prays with a patient at St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus in the West Bank. The Anglican hospital that dates to 1900 now observes Muslim tradition and maintains one floor for female patients and one for males. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Providing care to all who need it is also part of the mission of St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank.

St. Luke’s connects its original building dating to 1900 with a 53-bed, six-story hospital building with three operating rooms. Cardiac surgery is the only sort of medicine not practiced at the hospital because, according to public relations director Salwa Khoury, a nearby hospital performs that work.

St. Luke’s has a reputation as a major neurosurgery center. So much so that surgeons in 2015 managed to extract a bullet from the spine of a Palestinian man after hospitals in Jerusalem refused to perform the risky operation, she said. The man had been shot three times in the back during the Israeli–Palestinian conflict that erupted in late 2015.

The hospital, which has pre-1900 roots in two tents set up in the area by Church Mission Society members, also has a bustling emergency room and maternity ward. About 600 people come to the ER each month, according to medical director Walid Kerry. Two hundred and eighty babies are born in an average year.

Five babies were born that morning before the presiding bishop arrived, and more were expected that afternoon. As Curry and others gathered outside for a photo at the end of the visit, a group of men swung a car up to the front door and beckoned for workers to come help a pregnant woman.

While the hospital struggles with outdated equipment and other issues, no one is refused care because they cannot pay.

St. Luke’s Hospital medical director Walid Kerry and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry listen to a March 27 briefing about the hospital’s mission and ministry. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“We are the only hospital that never says no to any patient,” Kerry told Curry. “Of course, we never say no because this is our mission.”

Kerry, who serves on the diocesan standing committee, said he is proud to work at a religious-based institution like St. Luke’s. “We feel that it is ours. It’s our mission here to help people regardless of religion or ability to pay. We don’t look for profit, but on the other hand, we must reach the break-even point.”

Outreach to the surrounding countryside is also part of St. Luke’s mission. It helps pay for the cost of running the Penman Clinic in the space underneath St. Matthew’s in Zababdeh. The clinic draws patients from 14 surrounding villages. “They like to come to our clinic because they see a different kind of care,” Dawani said.

The vicar hopes the clinic, which sees 400 to 500 patients a month, will eventually grow into a hospital. The clinic is part of a lively church that, with 275 members, is bursting at the seams. The diocese has bought land nearby which could become the site of a bigger church and that longed-for hospital. There are many young families in the area and many babies being born. They are attracted to St. Matthew’s, Dawani said, because of its ministry to children, teenagers and youth ages 17 to 22.

Zababdeh’s 6,000 residents are roughly two-thirds Christians and a third Muslim. “We live together in peace,” the vicar said.

Curry was in the fourth day of a Holy Week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Previous ENS coverage of his travels can be found here.

The presiding bishop is accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

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


Archbishop of Canterbury offers to contribute to peace negotiations in Nigeria

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 2:40pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has repeated his offer to contribute to any peace negotiations while violence continues to erupt in some parts of Nigeria.

“I once again exhort President Muhammadu Buhari and other authorities, civil and religious, national and international, urgently to build a coalition to end this violence immediately,” Welby said. “In communications earlier this year with the Primate of All Nigeria, His Grace Nicholas Okoh, I offered to contribute towards such effort to the extent such might be useful. I repeat that offer again, knowing, however, that within Nigeria are all the skills needed for resolution of the suffering of the people.”

Read the full article here.

Melanesian primate calls sexual violence against children ‘a crime against humanity’

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 2:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop George Takeli, primate of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, has spoken out after a spate of high-profile cases of sexual violence against girls in the Solomon Islands. The archbishop issued a statement in his role as chairman of the ecumenical Solomon Islands Christian Association.

“We strongly condemn acts of violence in every form, and declared that sexual violence against our children and girls is sin by its painful dishonest exploitation, and a crime against humanity,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Episcopal, Roman Catholic congregations forge bond after church arsons in Los Angeles area

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 2:24pm

The Rev. Robert Gaestel points out fire damage at Church of the Angels in Pasadena, California, after an arsonist struck Jan. 13. Photo: Diocese of Los Angeles

[Episcopal News Service] Two congregations in the Los Angeles area, one Episcopal and the other Roman Catholic, have forged an unexpected bond this year, supporting each other after both were attacked by an arsonist in January.

The Episcopal Church of the Angels in Pasadena was hit early Jan. 13, a Saturday, but the fire and smoke damage was not severe enough to cancel worship services. The fire Jan. 25 at Resurrection Catholic Church, however, severely damaged the worship space, and since then, the congregation in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood has been forced to worship outside under tents while the church is being repaired.

Two months later, the two congregations have found hope all around them. A suspect has been arrested and charged in these and other church arsons in the region. Worshipers at Resurrection aim to move back into their church by Easter. And Church of the Angels recently raised $2,000 for Resurrection at an Evensong service that was attended by the Catholic congregation’s pastor.

The two churches are about 20 minutes apart, but with these newfound connections, they are leaving the door open to future partnerships that would bridge that distance.

“We don’t know where this is going to go, but I would imagine new things could come as a result of this,” said the Rev. Robert Gaestel, rector at Church of the Angels, which has an average Sunday attendance of about 100 people.

Resurrection Catholic Church is much larger, with as many as 800 people attending one of six Masses on Saturdays and Sundays, the Rev. John Moretta said. He was honored to be invited by Gaestel to attend the March 11 Evensong at Church of the Angels.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Moretta said. “I reminded him that he still prays for the holy catholic church … and that, really, we have a lot in common.”

For both congregations, their churches were spared irreparable damage thanks to the quick work of strangers.

At Church of the Angels, the fire was set in the building overnight, and two men spotted it while they were walking home from nearby nightlife hangouts. They shouted for help, which alerted Gaestel, who lives on church grounds.

Although the fire was extinguished before it could spread, it still caused nearly $250,000 in damage, mostly due to smoke, Gaestel said. Prayer books, four benches and an antique carved wooden angel lectern also were burned. Grafitti was scrawled on an angel sculpture and paving stones outside the church.

But the fire also revealed the connections neighbors feel with Church of the Angels, Gaestel said. Residents who live nearby, even those who aren’t Episcopalians and don’t attend worship services, offered to help with repairs the next day because they saw it as their neighborhood church, he said.

“People who aren’t necessarily connected with us were really concerned about us and were concerned about the building,” Gaestel said, adding that he thinks some of their feelings of connection were spiritual, as well. “Christianity goes a lot deeper in this culture than people realize, and it takes different shapes and forms than what we may think.”

With the neighbors’ help, Church of the Angels’ congregation was able to get the church cleaned up enough to worship inside on Jan. 14, though further renovations are continuing.

Resurrection Catholic Church was not so lucky. The arsonist tossed a flaming object into the church through an open window late at night. The fire was noticed by two men, who were walking to their car after leaving a job around 2 a.m., but by the time they alerted Moretta, the flames had spread and threatened to engulf the structure.

“The firemen told me that if the fire had [burned] two more minutes, we would have lost the whole church,” Moretta said.

Instead, the fire caused about $500,000 in damage. Fire insurance is covering most of the cost of repairs at Resurrection, as is the case at Church of the Angels. The congregations also have been raising money for some upgrades to the churches as part of the repairs and remodeling.

That is how the two pastors initially made contact. After learning about the fire at Resurrection, Gaestel asked the Very Rev. Michael Bamberger of the area’s Episcopal deanery to attend a news conference in Boyle Heights on Gaestel’s behalf and ask if the Catholic church had information to share on contractors. Bamberger reported back that the damage at Resurrection was much more severe than what Church of the Angels sustained.

Gaestel later called Moretta, who invited him to lunch and to visit Resurrection. Church of the Angels had scheduled its Evensong as a sendoff celebration for its longtime choir leader, who was leaving, and after conferring with the choir leader and vestry, Gaestel invited Moretta to attend. He also asked his parishioners for donations to support Resurrection’s rebuilding.

The two pastors have remained in contact. Moretta noted that both have decades of service in their respective congregations.

“He’s been at his parish 35 years. I’ve only been here 34 years,” he said.

Moretta also invited Gaestel and his family to a celebration in late April in honor of Moretta’s 50th year of ordination, and he hopes to have Gaestel back when the Resurrection congregation blesses its restored church, likely in May.

As for the suspect in the arsons, his motive remains unclear. Christian Michael Garcia, 25, was arrested shortly after the arson at Resurrection and has been charged with 20 felonies, including 13 counts of vandalism to religious properties, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“This destruction has no place in Los Angeles,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Anyone who commits these sorts of hateful acts on our sacred places of worship will be found and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We have zero tolerance for arson and vandalism anywhere in Los Angeles, let alone in our sacred spaces.”

A church fire is traumatic enough for a congregation, but Gaestel said that trauma is worsened when the fire is set intentionally.

“We don’t know what his motivation was,” Gaestel said. “Clearly he must be deeply troubled about something. Hopefully he’ll get whatever help he needs.”

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

‘Living stones’ of Al Ahli Arab Hospital build a ministry of healing, witness in Gaza

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 12:21pm

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

[Episcopal News Service – Gaza City] Healing comes in many forms, and Al Ahli Arab Hospital’s medical ministry combines every day with Christian witness to provide the people of the Gaza Strip an example of the love of Christ in action.

That example is set in an area whose Christian population is dwindling. Suhaila Tarazi, the hospital’s director general, estimates there are no more than 900 Christians among Gaza’s 2 million residents. Ten years ago, the number of Christians stood at 3,000 and the total population was some 1.5 million.

Tarazi told Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and his delegation March 26 that the remaining Christians are “the living stones” of Gaza, and so too are institutions like Al Ahli Arab Hospital, which is one of more than 30 social service ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

“We try through our mission of healing and love to preserve Christianity,” Tarazi said. “We put our Christianity in action. It’s not talking; it’s not preaching. It’s action.”

Just 12 of the Anglican hospital’s 120 employees are Christian, Tarazi said, but all employees work together and learn how to accept one another and love their neighbors. That work is all to further the hospital’s ministry of healing and reconciliation. The hospital ministers to all, irrespective of race, religion or ability to pay.

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

A toddler’s mother shows off her child to visitors at Al Ahli Arab Hospital. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Curry and staff members who accompanied him met some of the patients and employees and heard about the services that benefit some 38,000 Gaza Strip residents each year. The hospital offers general surgery, general medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and emergency care. People are treated without regard to their financial situation, according to Tarazi.

She said the hospital struggles to survive and do the work of Jesus “in the most difficult and gloomy situation.” A drive from the Israeli border to the hospital shows a city where cars swerve around donkey-drawn carts, and some buildings still show the evidence of mortar strikes from previous fighting.

A statue depicting a large bronze-colored fist rises out of the ground in one small clearing. Placards that appeared to praise men whom residents call freedom fighters and Israelis call terrorists are common sights on street corners. Other placards or murals, including one at the Gaza border crossing, seem to warn residents against becoming traitors by cooperating with Israel.

Rubble piles are common, and some children forage in garbage-strewn lots. Forty-four percent of adults are unemployed, and 33 percent of children suffer from undernourishment or malnutrition, Tarazi said. The hospital sees nearly 700 such children ages 6 months to 3 years via a program designed to monitor their health and teach their mothers about nutrition and other health issues.

Drinking water is polluted, as is the air, according to Dr. Maher Ayyad, medical director. Both communicable diseases and non-communicable ones, such as cancer and hypertension, are on the rise. Ayyad said that, as a Palestinian, he does not like to talk about politics but “my belief is that without America there will never be a solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bringing peace to that area will further peace efforts in the entire Middle East, he said.

“We pray all the time here because, as Christians, we believe in peace. We pray that God will give wisdom to our leaders to have peace in this area.”

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

The hospital’s situation is made more difficult by the restrictions Israel places on Gaza residents, including the movement of medicines and medical supplies, food, fuel and people in and out of the area. Electricity service only works sporadically, and often the hospital must run its 400 kilowatt generator for 16 hours a day. It takes $90 of fuel to power the generator each hour, Tarazi said.

Suhaila Tarazi, Al Ahli Arab Hospital’s director general, and Dr. Maher Ayyad, medical director, explain the ministry of the hospital, and the challenges it faces. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Relief & Development helps the hospital with its fuel and food needs.

The hospital is currently struggling in part because of a Trump administration decision in January to withhold $65 million of a $125 million contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

The cut means UNRWA will only pay a fourth of what the hospital expected in reimbursement for the care it gives, according to Tarazi.

If money and supplies are always an issue, vision and ambition is not. For instance, the hospital has a program for early detection of breast cancer among women older than 40. The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Islamic Relief have helped the hospital obtain a state-of-the-art mammography machine and the equipment needed to read the resulting x-rays. Support also has come from the Australian Anglican Overseas Aid organization.

Education is an important part of the program. That was evident as Curry and his group toured the hospital campus. In a room in the breast-cancer department, hospital employees were teaching a woman in a burka how to do breast self-examination. They were using a rubber device with simulated breasts that fit on the woman’s chest outside of her clothing. There are 800 new breast cancer cases in Gaza each year, Tarazi said.

The breast health education effort is important to increase early diagnosis, according to Tarazi and Ayyad. Otherwise treatment becomes a life-threatening emergency in which time is of the essence. Time moves very slowly in Gaza in those cases. Too often, the combination of aid from the Palestinian Authority and Israeli permission to leave Gaza for treatment cannot be coordinated with available appointments at facilities outside of the area. The Gaza hospital does not have radiation oncology equipment of its own.

Curry’s group, accompanied by Jerusalem Archbishop Suheil Dawani, met a woman who had already had a single mastectomy and now had been told that there was cancer in her other breast. Hospital officials were trying to get her out of Gaza for treatment.

The World Health Organization estimates that only 40 percent of Gazans who need to leave for cancer treatment get permission to do so.

Despite all the difficulties faced by the people of Gaza, Dawani insisted that “we will endure” in order to help that woman and others like her.

Signs in the courtyard of Al Ahli Arab Hospital point patients to various departments. Dr. Maher Ayyad, the hospital’s medical director, says the serene greenery of the courtyard is itself part of the hospital’s ministry. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Al Ahli Arab Hospital is constantly trying to build partnerships around the world to aid its mission. It is in the early stages of an agreement with Texas-based M.D. Anderson Cancer Hospital. The potentially $30 million partnership would bring equipment to the hospital and enable the medical staff to consult electronically with M.D. Anderson doctors on cases. Gaza staff could go through the Texas system for training, as well.

The hospital also has a grant from USAID to build a center for minimally invasive surgery. All staff surgeons will be trained in the technique, and the $900,000 grant will also help purchase the surgical equipment.

Curry was in the third day of a Holy Week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Previous ENS coverage of his travels can be found here.

The presiding bishop is accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

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



Groupe de travail «relations» de l’archevêque de Canterbury plans Saison de la repentance et de la prière

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 12:01pm

Des plans provisoires pour une saison du repentir et de la prière dans l’ensemble de la Communion anglicane l’année prochaine ont été proposés par le Groupe de travail qui a été créé après le Rassemblement des Primats en 2016. Ce temps de repentir et de prière commencerait par la publication d’une prière spécifique et s’étendrait de la Pentecôte à la fin de 2019.

Le Groupe, qui s’est réuni à Londres cette semaine, a annoncé que la saison se concentrera chaque semaine sur une province particulière. Les ressources d’accompagnement seront rassemblées et distribuées par le bureau de la Communion anglicane.

Monseigneur Ian Ernest, Évêque de l’Océan indien, qui a présidé la réunion de cette semaine, a expliqué que la saison serait le don de la Communion à un monde en souffrance.

« Nous sommes conscients des difficultés et des souffrances. Le monde connaît la déchirure. La Communion anglicane a également eu ses difficultés et ses déchirures. »

« Alors, notre réponse, c’est notre croyance que la prière nous aidera à grandir et à aimer malgré les différences. Notre croyance, c’est que nos différences ne mènent pas nécessairement à la haine, mais que la prière peut nous amener à la guérison là où les relations se sont détériorées. »

« Nous savons que nous sommes tous appelés à être des instruments d’amour et de pardon, de droiture et de vérité. »

Établi en 2016 par l’Archevêque de Cantorbéry à la demande des Primats, le Groupe de travail a pour mission de restaurer les relations, de renforcer la confiance et la responsabilité mutuelles, de guérir les conséquences de la souffrance, et d’explorer des relations plus approfondies. Il a présenté un rapport provisoire sur son travail lors du Rassemblement des Primats qui s’est tenu à Cantorbéry en octobre dernier.

Mgr Ian a indiqué que le groupe travaillait maintenant sur des actions concrètes qui reflétaient son mandat d’aider la Communion à « cheminer ensemble » malgré les différences. Il a exprimé son espoir que le temps de prière aiderait également à créer une dynamique en vue de la Conférence de Lambeth de 2020.

Le groupe a dit que sa prière pour la Communion avait été un écho de la prière du Christ qu’« ils soient tous un… pour que le monde croie », et qu’elle continuerait de l’être… et que l’unité du groupe, sa vie et son témoignage « s’appliqueraient sans cesse à demeurer dans la volonté du Christ. »

El Grupo de Trabajo del Arzobispo de Canterbury prepara un tiempo de oración y arrepentimiento

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 11:59am

El Grupo de Trabajo creado tras la Reunión de los Primados de 2016 ha presentado las propuestas iniciales para un tiempo de arrepentimiento y de oración en toda la Comunión Anglicana. Este tiempo tendrá lugar desde Pentecostés hasta finales de 2019, y para su lanzamiento se difundirá una oración especial.

El Grupo, reunido esta semana en Londres, anunció que este tiempo se centrará cada semana en una provincia determinada. La oficina de la Comunión Anglicana preparará y distribuirá el material de apoyo para este tiempo.

El Obispo Ian Ernest del Océano Índico, a quien se le encomendó la presidencia de la sesión de esta semana, manifestó que este tiempo de oración y arrepentimiento sería el regalo de la Comunión a un mundo de dolor.

«Nos damos cuenta de las dificultades, y esto causa dolor. El mundo conoce la ruptura. La Comunión Anglicana también ha tenido sus problemas y sus rupturas.

«Así pues, nuestra respuesta es: creemos firmemente que la oración nos ayudará a crecer y a amar a pesar de nuestras diferencias. Creemos firmemente que nuestras diferencias no tienen por qué conducirnos hacia el odio, sino que la oración puede ayudarnos a sanar allí donde las relaciones se hayan deteriorado.

«Sabemos que estamos llamados a ser instrumentos del amor y de la misericordia, de la justicia y de la verdad.»

El Grupo de Trabajo fue creado en enero de 2016 por el Arzobispo de Canterbury a petición de los Primados. Su cometido es restaurar relaciones, restablecer la confianza y la responsabilidad mutua, sanar el legado de dolor y explorar relaciones más profundas. Presentó un informe provisional sobre el trabajo realizado hasta la fecha en la Reunión de Primados de Canterbury de octubre del año pasado.

El Obispo Ian mencionó que en estos momentos el grupo está preparando acciones concretas que reflejen su mandato de ayudar a la Comunión a «caminar juntos» a pesar de las diferencias. También expresó su confianza en que este tiempo de oración contribuirá a generar un mayor impulso con vistas a la Conferencia de Lambeth de 2020.

El grupo declaró que su oración por la Comunión se había hecho y continuaría haciéndose eco de la oración de Cristo, «para que todos sean uno […] para que el mundo crea […]», y para que la unidad, la vida y el testimonio del grupo «se esfuerce en hacer la voluntad de Cristo».

The Group’s membership is drawn from across the Anglican Communion:
  • Richard Clarke
    Archbishop of Armagh and Primate
    Church of Ireland 
  • Michael Curry
    Presiding Bishop and Primate
    US-based Episcopal Church
  • Ian Ernest
    Bishop of Mauritus
    Province of the Indian Ocean
  • Philip Freier
    Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate
    Anglican Church of Australia
  • Moon Hing
    Bishop of West Malaysia and Primate
    Province of South East Asia
  • Elizabeth Paver
    Former vice-chair of the Anglican Consultative Council
    Church of England
  • Rosemary Mbogo
    Provincial Secretary
    Anglican Church of Kenya
  • Linda Nicholls
    Bishop of Huron
    Anglican Church of Canada
  • Paul Sarker
    Bishop of Dhaka and Primate
    Church of Bangladesh
  • and Josiah Idowu-Fearon
    Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

Mensaje de Pascua 2018 del obispo primado Curry desde Tierra Santa

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 6:09am

El obispo presidente y primado de la Iglesia Episcopal Michael Curry leyó su mensaje de Pascua 2018, de pie frente a la catedral anglicana de San Jorge [St. George] en Jerusalén. [El mensaje] fue filmado el Domingo de Ramos durante su visita a Tierra Santa.

“El odio no tiene la última palabra. La violencia no tiene la última palabra. La intolerancia no tiene la última palabra. El pecado y el mal no tienen la última palabra. Dios es la última palabra y Dios es amor”.

El Obispo Primado está recorriendo Tierra Santa durante la Semana Santa.

El feriado de Pascua se celebra el domingo 1 de abril.

El video puede verse aquí.

A continuación, el texto del mensaje de Pascua 2018 del Obispo Primado:

Saludos este Domingo de Ramos desde la catedral de san Jorge en Jerusalén.

Hay un pasaje en el capítulo 27 del Evangelio de Mateo en que los líderes religiosos y políticos se vuelven a reunir después de la crucifixión y ejecución de Jesús, después de haberlo puesto en el sepulcro. Una vez más se juntan para sellar la tumba y asegurarse de que no se propague ni siquiera un rumor de su resurrección. Y esto es lo que algunos de ellos dicen:

Por lo tanto, mandé que se selle el sepulcro hasta el tercer día. No sea que vengan sus discípulos se roben el cuerpo y le digan al pueblo que él ha resucitado de entre los muertos. Y este último engaño sería peor que el primero.

Es fácil pasar por alto, y algunas veces cómodo olvidar, que Jesús fue ejecutado, que Jesús fue crucificado por una alianza impía de la religión, la política y los mezquinos intereses económicos.
La política encarnada en Poncio Pilato, gobernador del Imperio Romano, y, como tal, representante de ese imperio y de todo su poder.

El rey Herodes, que escuchó a Jesús en uno de sus juicios, representante de los herodianos y de los mezquinos intereses económicos de ese tiempo.

El Sumo Sacerdote representante de la aristocracia religiosa que tenía un interés particular en mantener el statu quo.

Estos tres poderes —económico, religioso y político— se juntaron para crucificar a quien predicó el amor al Señor tu Dios, el amor al prójimo y que vivió acorde a esas enseñanzas.

La verdad es que el mensaje de Jesús era perturbador para el mundo de entonces al igual que lo es ahora. Y sin embargo ese mismo mensaje es la única fuente de esperanza en la vida para el camino de la cruz, el camino para vivir una vida libre de egoísmos, el camino para vivir una vida de sacrificio que busca el bien y bienestar de los demás, [el camino] libre del enfoque egoísta de los intereses propios. El camino de la cruz es el camino del amor. Esa es la naturaleza del amor. Y esa senda es la única esperanza para toda la familia humana.

La verdad es que el camino de Jesús era una amenaza para el mundo como era y al mismo tiempo representa la esperanza de la manera en que el mundo puede y debe ser.

Pero en ese tercer día después de la crucifixión, cuando por el poder titánico de Dios, por el poder del amor de Dios, Jesús resucitó de entre los muertos, Dios envió un mensaje y declaró que la muerte no tiene la última palabra. El odio no tiene la última palabra. La violencia no tiene la última palabra. La intolerancia no tiene la última palabra. El pecado y el mal no tienen la última palabra. La última palabra la tiene Dios y Dios es amor.

En nuestra peregrinación pasamos dos días en Jordania. En Amán en Jordania pudimos pasar algún tiempo sagrado y bendito, pero también doloroso con los cristianos iraquíes. Estos cristianos, muchos de los cuales son anglicanos, han tenido que huir de su país, Irak por causa de la guerra, la violencia, el odio y la profanación. Han renunciado a todo por no renunciar a su fe en Jesucristo. Y allá en Jordania con la ayuda de la Iglesia Anglicana y de muchas otras agencias de socorro, están por lo menos a salvo y esperan encontrar hogares seguros y permanentes en otros países.

Durante nuestras conversaciones, y al escucharlos, en un cierto momento, encontré que estaba citando un himno, una canción que muchas personas han escuchado en Pascua, al menos en nuestro país. Y no esperé que contestaran. Ustedes probablemente saben cómo va, dice “porque él vive”, refiriéndose a Jesús y a su resurrección, “porque él vive puedo enfrentar el mañana” Cuando yo cité esa canción, aquellos que han perdido sus hogares, las personas que lo han perdido todo excepto sus vidas, los que han perdido sus seres queridos, respondieron a las palabras de esa canción. Cuando yo dije “Porque él vive puedo enfrentar el mañana”, cuando yo dije Jesús está vivo, que se ha levantado de entre los muertos, los vi alzar sus rostros y responder con las palabras amén y aleluya.

Mis hermanos y hermanas, el mal no pudo detenerlo. La muerte no pudo detenerlo. La violencia no pudo detenerlo. Porque el amor de Dios, el corazón de Dios, la realidad de Dios es más fuerte que cualquier otra cosa. Y Jesús se levantó de entre los muertos en esa primera mañana de resurrección.

Dios les ama. Dios les bendiga Y que esta estación de Pascua sea el primer día del resto de nuestras vidas.


El Ilustrísimo Michael B. Curry
Obispo Presidente y Primado
de la Iglesia Episcopal

Archbishops issue pastoral letter after British abuse hearings

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 2:14pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued a joint pastoral letter following the conclusion of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s first public hearings last week. The Inquiry heard three weeks of evidence in its case study of the Diocese of Chichester, part of its wider investigation into the Church of England and the Church in Wales.

Read the full article here.

New Zealand primates say church should be included in state abuse inquiry

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 2:10pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Royal Commission of Inquiry established to investigate historical abuse in state care in New Zealand should be expanded to include the role of the church-related bodies, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia said. In a letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Children’s Minister Tracey Martin, Archbishops Winston Halapua and Philip Richardson said that the decision to ask for churches to be included in the Inquiry was made by the Standing Committee of the province’s General Synod when it met earlier this month.

Read the full article here.

South American bishop to tackle climate change at meeting in Peru

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 1:11pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishops from across the six countries of the Anglican Church of South America are to meet to discuss ways of tackling the “ever-growing environmental challenges resulting from climate change.” Anglican bishops and other delegates from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay will gather in Lima, Peru, in May “to consider and try to define the role of the church in response to the devastating social and environmental effects of climate change within their respective dioceses.”

Read the full article here.

Presiding Bishop begins a Holy Week pilgrimage in the Holy Land

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 10:12am

“The world doesn’t have to be this way because God has a dream and a vision for this world, and nothing can stop God’s dream,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry tells the congregation during the Palm Sunday Eucharist at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Jerusalem] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry began Holy Week in the Holy City of Jerusalem by proclaiming the good news that Jesus has shown the world a way to live that is based in love, not tyranny, and can lead to the coming of the kingdom.

During his sermon at the Holy Eucharist at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Curry contrasted the simultaneous entry into Jerusalem of two very different men: Jesus and Pontius Pilate. The latter, Curry said, rode in from the West on a war horse with legions of Roman soldiers and with “all of his disdain and arrogance and worldly power.”

“Jesus came in on the other side of town on a donkey,” Curry said, adding that Jesus’ timing was no coincidence. He meant to show that “there is another way; that you don’t have to live this way. The world doesn’t have to be this way because God has a dream and a vision for this world, and nothing can stop God’s dream.”

War, violence and hatred do not work, Curry said. “They may work for a day; tyrants may endure for a day, but they do not last.”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has a pensive moment March 25 outside St. George’s College at the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr in Jerusalem before the Palm Sunday service begins. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Jesus shows a way to life in which there is room for all and the creation is preserved. “A way that can help us find life, real life,” Curry said.

The presiding bishop told the congregation about the March 24 marches all over the United States led by students who want to end gun violence. He compared their entrance into Washington, D.C., with Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.

Echoing “All Glory, Laud and Honor,” the traditional Palm Sunday processional hymn, Curry said, “Yesterday, our children made hosannas ring again for they wanted the leaders of the nations, the leaders of my beloved country, to hear that the way of violence is not the way.”

“They marched for peace, they spoke of love, they asked our leaders to change laws so that all could be saved.”

The resurrection that comes a week after Palm Sunday, Curry said, was “God’s way of showing us that love, in the end, will win. God’s dream – God’s kingdom – will come on earth as in heaven.”

The Palm Sunday morning service, celebrated in Arabic and English, was preceded by the blessing of palm branches and a procession from St. George’s College Square into the cathedral, located on Nablus Road in East Jerusalem.

The Rt. Rev. Suheil Dawani, Anglican archbishop in Jerusalem, invited Curry to make a Holy Week pilgrimage through the Holy Land. The journey began in Amman, Jordan, on March 24. There, Curry went to St. Paul’s Church in the eastern part of the capital city to listen to the stories of Iraqi Christian refugees to whom the church ministers. Curry and his group then toured the site of Jesus’ baptism on the Jordan River, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is run by the Baptism Site Commission, an independent board of trustees appointed by H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein.

Curry will spend the week with Dawani exploring the ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, which is spread over five countries — Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. He has also begun learning about the struggles of the declining Christian population in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.

Throughout the week, the presiding bishop will also join Holy Week services, observances and celebrations, including the traditional Maundy Thursday foot washing and the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

In their first two days of their pilgrimage, both Curry and Dawani spoke of continuing to deepen what each called a long-standing relationship. During his sermon at a Palm Sunday Evensong, the archbishop welcomed Curry on his first official visit since becoming presiding bishop in 2015. Dawani was the first person to congratulate Curry after his installation at Washington National Cathedral.

The archbishop made Curry an episcopal canon of St. George’s Cathedral during Evensong. Dawani said he prayed that this honor would help the presiding bishop carry “this cathedral and the people of this land in your heart throughout your ministry.”

The Rev. Hosam Naoum, dean of St. George’s, told Episcopal News Service that it is “intrinsic and essential” to have the Episcopal Church represented in the cathedral as an episcopal canon. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, as well as the leaders of Anglican Communion provinces in each continent, also hold such status. Presiding Bishops Ed Browning, Frank Griswold and Katharine Jefferts Schori also held the position during their tenures.

“The cathedral here becomes a sign for unity in the Anglican Communion, despite all the difference we have,” Naoum said. “That is the message that comes out from Jerusalem to the whole worldwide church.”

The canons are expected to pray for the cathedral and the diocese’s ministry as a way to “strengthen and deepen” the existing relationships. “It also becomes a mutual relationship where we will also be supportive of your ministry” in the Episcopal Church, the dean said.

Those relationships “become a beacon of how for the whole world when the church is united as a community and as a family of Christ,” he said.

Such unified Christian communities are becoming more and more important, the archbishop said. During his sermon, Dawani said Jerusalem’s traditional Palm Sunday procession up and down the Mount of Olives includes Christians of every denomination and expression. More than 20,000 pilgrims walk together, “reminding us that in this land the Christians speak with one voice; this is a voice that must speak in a way that speaks the truth of Christ, sometimes even in the face of great forces.”

Those who would be what Dawani called “Christ’s prophets in the world” must know that, especially in the Middle East, communities and people are suffering because others “do not respond in love, but in hate.”

The archbishop reminded Curry that he had heard some of the stories of what happens when people do not respond with love when he met with Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan. He asked Curry to tell their stories to those who could help the refugees leave the limbo in which they find themselves.

“These people lost everything, but not their faith,” the Rev. George Al-Kopti, vicar of St. Paul’s, told Curry during his visit. “It challenges me: What shall I do if that happens to me?”

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Jerusalem Anglican Archbishop Suheil Dawani pose with Iraqi Christian refugees outside of St. Paul’s Church in Amman, Jordan, after their March 24 meeting. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Al-Kopti said St. Paul’s began working with Syrian refugees, but most of them have been able to leave Jordan. Now, they minister to the Iraqi Christians, who told Curry they are not allowed to work, and they feel unwelcome in Jordan. However, persecution in Iraq means they cannot go home. They are waiting for official United Nations designation as refugees, which would allow them to emigrate.

The Rev. George Al-Kopti, vicar of St. Paul’s Church in Amman, Jordan, left, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, Jerusalem Anglican Archbishop Suheil Dawani and the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church, listen March 24 to the stories of Iraqi Christian refugees at St. Paul’s. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“I am a Christian and I have the peace of Christ in my heart. I know from the Bible that Christians are to be persecuted, but this is a bad situation we live with in Jordan after we get our homes and our country, and our lives there taken from us,” one woman told Curry. “We’re waiting. We’re doing nothing. We’re waiting to have life.”

Al-Kopti said the story of Iraqi Christian refugees “is not on TV; it is not on the media. Everybody is silent about their agony, about their losses.”

“We would like you to be a voice for them,” he told the presiding bishop.

Curry spent almost an hour listening to a group of close to 30 men and woman, some of whom came with their children. “We want your brothers and sisters in the United States and in other countries to hear your story and understand your struggle,” Curry said. “We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and maybe one way we can help you is to be sure your story is heard in the U.S.”

“We will do our very best to help your story to be told. You are not alone. We follow Jesus and he rose from the dead, and because he lives we can face tomorrow.”

The presiding bishop is accompanied by the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. Margaret Rose, Episcopal Church deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations; the Rev. Robert Edmunds, Episcopal Church Middle East partnership officer; and Sharon Jones, Curry’s executive coordinator.

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

Presiding Bishop in Jerusalem: Jesus came to the Holy City to show us a new way

Sun, 03/25/2018 - 10:12am

[Episcopal News Service — Jerusalem] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who is on a Holy Week pilgrimage in the Holy Land, preached March 25 at the Palm Sunday Eucharist at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral here.

Curry told the congregation that Jesus deliberately entered Jerusalem at the same time as Pontius Pilate to point to a different way of life, one that is grounded in love and not tryanny.

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