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Episcopal churches in the Carolinas assess damage, offer help after Hurricane Florence

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 3:11pm

[Episcopal News Service] The storm has moved on, but the impact from Hurricane Florence still is being felt by the dioceses, congregations and Episcopalians in the Carolinas as they deal with power outages, downed trees, flooded neighborhoods and impassable roads.

The bishops of the five Episcopal dioceses in North and South Carolina issued a joint statement Sept. 15 pledging their support for those affected by the storm and asking for Episcopalians everywhere to help by giving to Episcopal Relief & Development.

“We are assessing the damage to our communities, which as you will know from news reports, varies widely. Conditions will continue to change for days due to rising rivers,” the bishops said. “We are blessed by your prayers and assurances of support and give thanks to God for you. As the Body of Christ, you give us tremendous strength and encouragement.”

At least 23 people have died in North and South Carolina due to the storm, which brought hurricane-force winds as it made landfall early Sept. 15 near Wilmington, North Carolina. The storm weakened as it continued west, but flooding remains a threat even days later. Hundreds of roads were still closed Sept. 17, including parts of Interstate 40 and Interstate 95.

Each Episcopal diocese has been in regular contact with Episcopal Relief & Development while coordinating pastoral response with clergy members. The storm forced many congregations to cancel Sunday services on Sept. 16, and lists of closures are being updated day to day.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which encompasses the coastal half of the state, reported that at least 15 of its congregations had canceled services. Bishop Skip Adams postponed a visit to St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Kingstree “due to the likelihood that road near the church may not be passable on Sunday.”

The Diocese of East Carolina is updating its “hurricane hub” webpage with the latest information about the storm’s aftermath, including the continued closure of the Diocesan House in Kinston. On its Facebook page, the diocese is sharing highlights of the post-Florence experience of its congregations, located in North Carolina’s coastal region.

One photo shows a large tree that split and toppled on church property at St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington. The tree did not appear to have hit the church building.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Currituck, North Carolina, posted a photo of the message that now is displayed on its sign: “Welcome back. We made it out fine. Pray for the rest of N.C.”

Trinity Episcopal Church in Chocowinity, North Carolina, shared a photo of its Sunday service on Sept. 16, attended by about a half dozen members who were able to make it to the church safely.

“In spite of no electricity, our small family was able to Worship God and pray for all of those less fortunate. We continue to keep our Trinity Family in our prayers as well as all who are affected by the hurricane,” the Facebook post said.

Members of Church of the Servant in Wilmington worked last week to secure the church building and to wrap furniture in plastic before Hurricane Florence hit. The Rev. Jody Greenwood, the church’s rector, reported Sept. 17 that the property appeared to be in good shape after the storm.

“I stopped by the church this morning and we do have power. Tree debris and some fence panels are down, but nothing major in the yard,” she said on Facebook.

The Diocese of North Carolina, which includes the central third of the state, sent an email newsletter to its members on Sept. 17 noting that the scope of the disaster is still being assessed. So far, its congregations have reported no major damage from the storm.

It also will be working with clergy members to plan relief efforts. Volunteers will be needed, the diocese said, but it asked members not to go to the affected areas on their own until the precise needs are confirmed. In the meantime, donations are welcome.

Episcopal Relief & Development said before Florence made landfall that it was working with 11 dioceses on response plans. During the disaster recovery, it will work “to equip congregational and diocesan leadership with critical tools and resources as they prepare to serve the most vulnerable communities impacted by the storm.”

Some of the worst flooding from the storm happened in the city of New Bern, North Carolina, which is northeast of Wilmington and sits on the Neuse River near where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 4,300 homes in the city and more than 300 business reportedly were damaged.

Christ Church, the Episcopal congregation in New Bern, reported that the church property made it through the storm without sustaining serious damage, but it called members of the congregation together Sept. 17 for an afternoon Eucharist and cleanup. It also is working to match resources to needs in the community and has asked anyone interested in helping to consider buying items for the local shelter or donating money to support the church’s efforts.

“I know more than a few of our Christ Church family will need immediate help in getting their homes and yards cleaned up. Thank you to those who have offered your labor, and please do not be shy about asking for help,” the Rev. Paul Canady, rector at Christ Church, said in a Facebook post.

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

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Church of England appoints independent Chair for National Safeguarding Panel

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 2:59pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The first independent chair of the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Panel, former government minister Meg Munn, was installed today. Munn, a former Labour Party Member of Parliament for a constituency in the south Yorkshire city of Sheffield, takes over as chair of the panel from Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Hancock who continues in his role as the church’s lead bishop for safeguarding.

Read the full article here.

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Brazil’s Anglican Church issues guidance ahead of Presidential and parliamentary elections

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 2:55pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil – the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil – has published guidance to help Anglicans in the country prepare for next month’s presidential election. The material has been published “to support reflection at this election time to help people to discern the words and attitudes of people who present themselves as candidates for the various levels of government,” the church said, adding that it was also “a contribution” by the church “to better equip Christian people in political participation that builds an authentic democracy, in which political participation is an instrument of service that promotes deliverance.”

Read the full article here.

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Suffragan bishop of Northern Argentina dies after illness

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 5:35pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop Urbano Duarte, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Northern Argentina, died in a hospital this week after a short illness. Almost 1,000 people gathered for his funeral and burial in his home town of Potrillo on Sept. 11, the day after the 67-year-old bishop’s death.

Read the full article here.

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Zimbabwean churches are urged to join fight against Cholera pandemic

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 5:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches in Zimbabwe have been urged to take steps to help curb the country’s cholera outbreak, which has claimed 25 lives and is spreading rapidly in the capital Harare.

“Churches are faced with a special challenge, because they gather thousands of people every week and it is in such gatherings that the spread of the pandemic can be accelerated,” said Kenneth Mtata, general secretary of the national ecumenical group the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. “So the Church is being called to cooperate with the instructions coming from the Ministry of Health and all those who are working to curb the spread of the pandemic.”

Read the full article here.

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Massachusetts bishops call for offering to support disaster relief after gas explosions

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 5:18pm

[Diocese of Massachusetts] In the aftermath of the natural gas system crisis on Thursday, Sept. 13, that caused explosions, fires and emergency evacuations in the Merrimack Valley, all three Episcopal churches and one Episcopal school in the affected communities — Christ Church in Andover, St. Paul’s Church in North Andover and Grace Church and Esperanza Academy in Lawrence – -report no property damage and no known personal injuries, but at least two church families in Lawrence and one in Andover whose homes were affected by fires.  Many in all three communities, located about 25 miles north of Boston, continue to be affected by the evacuations and ongoing power outages.

As of Friday afternoon, diocesan personnel were in the process of reaching out to the Brooks School in North Andover and the Episcopal chaplain at Phillips Academy in Andover.

The cause of the crisis is still under investigation by federal and state officials.  News media report one Lawrence teenager killed and at least 20 injured in Thursday’s disaster, which caused at least 60 separate fires and the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes.  Many schools and businesses remained closed and some 18,000 electric company customers were without power on Friday, according to news reports.

“The prayers and concern of our entire diocesan family are with those in the Merrimack Valley communities affected by this disaster,” Bishop Alan M. Gates said Sept. 14. “Bishop Gayle Harris and I, together with regional canon Martha Hubbard, have been directly in contact with the clergy of our parishes in those communities and our colleagues at Esperanza Academy. A number of their families have been directly affected, together with countless others who will need our support in the weeks ahead. I invite from all corners of the diocese your continuing prayers and contributions toward relief efforts.”

To that end, the bishops ask all congregations in the diocese to consider designating or collecting an offering in support of a diocesan relief response. Those offerings should be made payable to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and marked “Merrimack Valley Disaster Relief.” Contributions may be sent to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Attn: Lauren Zook, 138 Tremont Street, Boston MA 02111.

As the situation unfolds, the bishops, together with local clergy and disaster response contacts, Deacon Jay Jordan, Episcopal Relief & Development disaster preparedness coordinator in the Diocese of Massachusetts, and Canon to the Ordinary Bill Parnell, Episcopal Relief & Development disaster response coordinator for the diocese, will continue to be in conversation to determine what longer-term response might be needed.

In a conference call on Sept. 14, Episcopal clergy in the affected communities expressed their gratitude for the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they’ve already received. One of the ways people can be of help to them, they said, is to be patient as they prioritize the immediate care of their communities and families and take time to determine what will be needed in the days ahead.

Prayer and liturgy resources for use in times of disaster are available from Episcopal Relief & Development here.

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Proving ownership of inherited property is a problem on St. Croix

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 4:44pm

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on hurricane recovery in the Virgin Islands. Click here to read more and here for a photo gallery.

[Episcopal News Service – St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands] It’s not uncommon in the Virgin Islands for homes to be handed down from one generation to another. It’s also not uncommon for a deceased person to have his or her name on the deed, which is a problem when it comes to applying for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as many people found.

Across St. Croix and the other islands, there are stories of people living in damaged houses without electricity – people ineligible for funds to repair their homes because they don’t “own” the property.

“One of the difficulties is finding out who is the owner,” said Angelica Schuster, a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which has assisted community members in assembling the paperwork needed to file FEMA applications.

FEMA used St. Peter’s parish hall as a disaster center for three and a half months after the storm. A hundred people would come daily to submit applications. When FEMA couldn’t help, residents turned to the Small Business Administration, which also set up offices in the parish hall.

Frustration with insurance companies saying homeowners are uninsured or underinsured has led some people to say their insurance is “in God we trust,” said Gloria Euzebe, St. Peter’s senior warden. They’re setting aside repair money in a separate account rather than pay insurance premiums, she said.

Even when homeowners settle insurance claims, it’s difficult to find the construction materials and the labor to make the repairs. The same holds true for church properties, some of which are still waiting to settle claims a year later.

“We haven’t really done much because of the insurance delay, with a disaster of that magnitude,” said Schuster of St. Peter’s, who serves as Holy Cross’ senior warden.

Church Insurance, which falls under the umbrella of the Church Pension Group, insures church properties. For the past several months, they have been busy, said C. Curtis Ritter, senior vice president and head of corporate communications for CPG, in an email to Episcopal News Service.

“We try to respond to claims as quickly as possible. With so many disasters occurring back-to-back, it was hard to keep up the pace, but we did it,” he said, adding that employees travel tens of thousands of miles a year meeting with clients and responding to emergencies.

Last year, Hurricane Irma crossed the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sept. 6, 2017, causing extensive damage. Two weeks later, on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria passed over the islands as a Category 5 storm before making landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. The two hurricanes led to thousands of deaths and more than $102 billion in damages. Damage to church-owned properties is $7 million, according to Church Insurance.

The Diocese of the Virgin Islands consists of 14 congregations spread over five islands: three islands – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix – are under U.S. jurisdiction, and two – Tortola and Virgin Gorda – are under British rule. Residents living in the U.S. Virgin Islands are U.S. citizens; residents of the British Virgin Islands are British Overseas Territories citizens. Prior to becoming a territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands belonged to Denmark.

St. Croix covers 84 square miles, and unlike St. Thomas and St. John, is flat. Agriculture, once big on the island, is making a comeback. In partnership with Jacksonville, Florida-based Fresh Ministries, the diocese is becoming part of the agriculture movement.

St. Croix is also home two to historic churches. The Church of England established St. John’s in Christiansted in 1760 and St. Paul’s in Frederiksted was built in 1812. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. St. Paul’s suffered some damage in the storm and workers made emergency repairs to the rectory. St. John’s fared better in the hurricanes, but needs restoration.

The church that housed San Francisco Mission, the diocese’s only Spanish-language congregation, suffered significant structural damage and cannot be repaired. Puerto Ricans from Culebra and Vieques migrated to St. Croix in the 1930s and ‘40s to cut sugarcane.

For now, the congregation, or what’s left of it after the storm, is meeting in members’ homes, said the Rev. Aida Nieves, a deacon, who serves San Francisco mission.

Post-hurricanes, Nieves has been working with community members, many of whom don’t have government identification, to get IDs. She’s also working with a woman who lives in the home of her deceased partner, whose name is on the deed, to make repairs.

St. Croix is home to five of the diocese’s 14 congregations.

Holy Cross also suffered significant damage when the hurricane lifted the roof before setting it back in place.

“The whole roof needs to be replaced,” said the Rev. Amonteen Doward, priest-in-charge at Holy Cross and St. Paul’s supply priest. “Birds are coming in through the open windows.”

Danish volunteers put the blue tarpaulin on Holy Cross’ roof, which saved the parish $15,000, Doward said. The foundation shifted under an addition to the parish hall. The mahogany pews need to be refinished.

For the time being, the congregation is meeting at St. Luke AME Church.

“We’re really homeless in the true sense of the word,” said Doward.

A former public health official, Doward provides pastoral care to community members and also directs them to social services if they have needs.

Across the island people, many people need assistance, said Yvette Ross Edwards, lay dean of St. Croix.

And following hurricanes, she said, the churches need to rebuild their missions. “Our missions haven’t died, but people have been consumed with other things,” she said.

“We have to go into the community and reach out to them,” said Edwards.

–Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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‘Connecting the dots’ between faith and climate change

Fri, 09/14/2018 - 10:26am

[Religion News Service] Tackling issues like climate change or protecting the environment often requires a lot of boring, behind-the-scenes work, far from the spotlight.

But sometimes you have to let your light shine, said the Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, president of Interfaith Power & Light.

For California faith communities, that means taking a public role in the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this week (Sept. 12-14), offering an interfaith service and faith-based workshops among other events.

The three-day summit, co-chaired by Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has drawn international and local government, business, science and nonprofit leaders. Hendershot Guy said it is important for the faith community to show up as well.

“Every major faith tradition calls us to care for the Earth,” she said. “And every major faith tradition calls us to care for our neighbors and those who are most vulnerable. And climate change impacts both of those.”

The summit has been a chance for these congregations to raise the profile of their faith efforts.

“There are a lot of people beginning to connect the dots between faith, the environment, climate change,” said the Rev. Ambrose Carroll, co-founder of Green the Church, a campaign to motivate environmental action in the African-American church community.

For many congregations, the environmental focus is nothing new. Many local houses of worship have community gardens or encourage members to write letters to the editor of their local newspaper. An Interfaith Power & Light program called Cool Congregations helps congregations reduce their carbon footprint while saving money.

Some faith leaders have taken time to call or meet with local policy makers — an important step, said Hendershot Guy. “We can all change a light bulb,” she said. “But at the end of the day we need the right policies in place in order to get where we need to go as quickly as we need to get there.”

Recently a number of faith-based organizations backed a new California law, signed by Brown this week, that requires the state to get all its power from renewable sources by 2045.

Bishop Marc Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California said his denomination has been working on corporate and individual action. The Episcopal Church remains committed to the Paris climate accord, even though President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. The denomination has also passed a number of resolutions focused on creation care.

The resolutions include encouraging churches to serve and promote locally grown food, promoting energy and water efficiency and advocating for ocean health through public policy advocacy.

Keeping those resolutions, Andrus said, is easier said than done, which is why the church is helping create an app to assist people with keeping their commitments.

The app, Sustaining Earth, Our Island Home, will help people make five changes in their life and then tracks their progress. The app is expected to go live in January.

Kristin Barker, co-founder of One Earth Sangha, which brings practices from the Buddhist tradition to ecological issues, said it’s important to personally commit to the Paris agreement and not wait for the government to enforce regulations.

But she also acknowledges the difficulties of living a sustainable life and wants others to feel they can acknowledge it too.

“This is hard. It takes me longer to get to work when I have to take a bus. Or, I really miss eating hamburgers,” she said.

Andrus said many faith-based groups are working on sustainability and environmental justice is very large. But they seem to be flying under the radar.

“Many of them don’t know about each other,” Andrus said. “And the larger body of the church and the general public don’t know about them either.”

Both Andrus and Hendershot Guy are working to organize and support these communities through interfaith events at the summit.

“It’s one planet and it’s one people,” Andrus said. “We inspire each other, we learn from each other.”

Lately some faith groups in California have found themselves at odds when it comes to environmental issues.

A local environmental coalition called STAND-LA — which includes faith-based groups — is working to shut down the the Murphy oil drilling site in Los Angeles, arguing that its wells pose a danger to the community. It is one of two such sites located on property owned by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“We stand with the archdiocese when it comes to immigration reform. We stand with the archdiocese on several other social issues,” said the Rev. Kelvin Sauls, faith community organizer for STAND-LA. “On some we disagree.”

The land was donated to the archdiocese in the 1950s by descendants of Edward L. Doheny, one of Los Angeles’ early oil barons, according to the Los Angeles Times. AllenCo Energy bought the oil production facility on the site in 2009.

AllenCo voluntarily suspended oil production in 2013 after public opposition. An investigation led to more than $99,000 in fines, according to the Times.

The site has remained closed. But AllenCo officials have discussed reopening it.

STAND-LA and other south LA residents want the diocese to help shut the site down permanently. Last year, Sauls sent a letter to Archbishop José H. Gomez asking for a meeting. The letter cited Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology.

“We also see it as a tremendous opportunity to transition to a more sustainable economy that will create jobs for local residents, income for local institutions, and ensure a healthy community for our children and future generations,” the letter read. “We believe the Los Angeles Archdiocese can play a transformational and catalytic role in this transition.”

Gabriela Garcia, who lives near the AllenCo drilling site, has been part of grassroots efforts for several years. She said the efforts came together when neighbors started asking one another about strange odors and whether their children were also getting nosebleeds.

She also spoke during a rally at the Murphy site on Saturday (Sept. 8). Acknowledging that the issue is complex, Garcia said nonetheless that the archdiocese has a responsibility to shut down the site.

“We know that that would be the best outcome for our community and for the health of our community,” Garcia said.

In an email statement, the archdiocese told Religion News Service that it “does not have the right to shut down the site.”

“That said we are working with the City and AllenCo to find an alternative use for the site that is in the best interest of the community, royalty holders and all other stake-holders,” the statement continued.

The rally also promoted legislation for a 2,500-foot buffer between extraction sites and homes, said Niki Wong, director of policy and organizing at Redeemer Community Partnership, a local faith group.

Wong knows these rallies can make a difference.

In August, the faith-based group learned the owners of a drill site on Jefferson Boulevard would be shutting that facility down in the face of neighborhood opposition.

Now the nonprofit is working to make sure the closure and cleanup are done in a timely manner and that it isn’t left as an “orphan well,” abandoned by the company.

Then, she said, it’ll be up to the community to decide what to do with the land next. She’s heard people talking about a skate park, library or park.

“Right now this site is awful. It’s a facility that repels people from their homes,” Wong said. “It’d be so beautiful to see it transform into a park that gathers people together.”

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Dioceses initiate disaster response as Episcopalians in Carolinas, Virginia brace for Hurricane Florence

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 4:41pm

This map produced by the National Hurricane Center shows Hurricane Florence’s projected path as of 2 p.m. ET Sept. 13.

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal dioceses and congregations along the Carolina coast and further inland are offering guidance, resources and prayers to Episcopalians in the line of Hurricane Florence, which is expected to make landfall late Sept. 13 or early Sept. 14 and bring destructive winds, waves and rain.

The eye of Florence is on track to pass over or near Wilmington, North Carolina, with hurricane-force sustained winds before making its way across South Carolina and weakening over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center forecast.   Authorities warn the worst damage could be from storm surge on the coast and steady rain, which have the potential to cause dangerous flooding.

“Hurricane Florence is an uninvited guest, but she is just about here anyway,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday morning, according to the Wilmington Star News. “My message today: don’t relax. Don’t become complacent. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today, the threat becomes a reality.”

Episcopalians are taking that threat seriously. Services and church activities have been canceled from the Episcopal Church in Okatie, South Carolina, near the Georgia state line to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, North Carolina. Diocesan officials have been in contact with Episcopal Relief & Development and are communicating emergency info to their church members. And many Episcopalians on the coast have heeded evacuation orders or else are hunkering down as the storm approaches.

“There seems little doubt that Hurricane Florence is going to have a tremendous impact across the communities of our diocese, and many are projecting that it will be the most devastating storm that our state has experienced in decades,” East Carolina Bishop Robert Skirving said Sept. 12 in a letter to the diocese, which includes coastal North Carolina.

His diocese has created a “hurricane hub” on its website to provide residents with the latest storm updates and links to other information and resources, and the website invites those interested in helping to donate to the diocese’s relief fund or to Episcopal Relief & Development.

The National Hurricane Center warns that Florence is poised to bring “life-threatening storm surge and rainfall.” The storm’s windspeed has decreased in recent days, but it has grown wider and is expected to produce storm surges of up to 13 feet and up to 30 inches of rain to coastal North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina. Up to a foot of rain could fall on the rest of the two states and Virginia.

The Church of the Servant in Wilmington isn’t taking any chances.

“Thank you to those who were able to come help us get COS ready for hurricane Florence,” the congregation’s rector, the Rev. Jody Greenwood, said Sept. 13 in a Facebook post showing a virtually empty church. “Consider hatches battened-down.”

When reached by phone, Greenwood told Episcopal News Service she and her wife left their home in downtown Wilmington to staying with other members of the congregation in a home more securely located away from the ocean. She brought her bicycle, to give another way to get back to the church if driving lanes aren’t passable after the storm.

The parish, with an average Sunday attendance of about 150, has an emergency plan that involves checking on each parishioner before the storm hits. Greenwood estimates half of them fled, and the other half are staying in Wilmington.

She hopes to let them know in the next day or so whether Sunday services will resume on Sept. 16. The services necessarily would be simple. No bulletins were printed before the storm. The congregation’s organist is staying in Alabama.

“If we have services, it’s going to be mostly to giver people something to do and be in community with each other,” Greenwood said.

Across the city, fellow Wilmington congregation St. Andrew’s On-the-Sound Episcopal Church had closed as well, with all but its 11:15 a.m. Sunday service canceled for the week.

“Please, as always, pay attention to bulletins and warnings from local government,” the Rev. Richard Elliott, rector, said on the church’s Facebook page. “Err on the side of caution. Exercise common sense. If you are in a safe place and it is not safe on the roads, stay in the safe place. We will have church services another time. …

“Let us hold one another close in our hearts.”

Grace Cathedral in Charleston noted it was under a mandatory evacuation and had canceled many of the congregation’s regularly scheduled activities for the week, though Sunday services are still on for now.

“We pray for our community, for all travelers, and all those affected by this coming storm,” the cathedral said in a post about the storm on its website. “We pray for the safety and security of all. We ask for God’s guiding Hand upon all first responders and all agencies that provide relief in the days ahead.”

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, which includes Charleston and the state’s coastal congregations, has been working with Episcopal Relief & Development since Sept. 10 to plan for the storm, according to a post on its website.

Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting 11 dioceses in the path of the storm, which has prompted evacuation orders affecting more than 1.5 million people.

“Leaders throughout this region have extensive experience preparing for and responding to disasters and have powerful networks of relationships and ministries in their communities,” Katie Mears, senior director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program, said in a press release. “This wealth of experience and deep community connections will allow diocesan leaders to effectively serve those most in need.”

And although the communities along the Carolina coast are expected to be hit hardest by Hurricane Florence, churches further inland are taking the storm just as seriously.

Western North Carolina Bishop Jose McLoughlin sent a letter to his diocese Sept. 12 noting that he and the rest of the Carolinas and Virginia bishops have been on daily conference calls to coordinate church response, including through use of an emergency alert system.

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we all stay connected during the upcoming natural disaster,” McLoughlin said. “Please keep the other dioceses that are in the path of Hurricane Florence, as well as all first responders, in your prayers.”

The Diocese of North Carolina, which encompasses the middle third of the state, issued a notice Sept. 13 saying diocesan offices would be closed for the day and on Sept. 14. It also offered assistance for congregations that sustain damage to their churches and to clergy needing pastoral support.

Episcopal leaders in the region have been busy all week with preparations, North Carolina Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple told Episcopal News Service by phone. By Sept. 13, with plans in place, it fell like the “calm before the storm,” she said, but behind the scenes communications continue among all affected dioceses.

“There is a huge collaboration going on,” Hodges-Copple said.

The Episcopal Church is familiar with this kind of response, because of the expertise provided by Episcopal Relief & Response but also because of the frequency of similar disasters in recent years.

The eye of Florence is on track to pass over or near Wilmington, North Carolina, with hurricane-force sustained winds before making its way across South Carolina and weakening over the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center forecast. Photo: NOAA

This month marks a year since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana hard, prompting the mobilization of the dioceses there to help with relief efforts. Later in September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and the Episcopal dioceses there still are working with residents to bounce back.Irma also hit the mainland United States, and Episcopal dioceses from Southwest Florida to South Carolina helped their congregations prepare for the storm and deal with the aftermath.

Hodges-Copple referenced storms from even farther back – Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Fran in 1996 – that hit the East Coast, including the Carolinas. Not everyone in her diocese today may remember those storms, but emergency communications have improved since then as technology has evolved. Even in remote, rural areas, the church is working to make sure no residents are forgotten during and after a major storm like Florence.

And often, the most immediate relief priests and deacons can offer their parishioners is a calming presence in the face of calamity.

“There’s going to be times when all we can do is be still and be prayerful,” she said.

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

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On Tortola, mission church prays for children sent to school off island

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 3:33pm

St. Paul’s Episcopal Mission in Sea Cow’s Bay – named for the manatees that used to swim in the bay – on Tortola. It was destroyed in a hurricane in 1916 and rebuilt in 1939. Hurricane Irma blew in the doors; a pew landed on and destroyed the organ. The congregation worshipped in the parish hall until the first Sunday in Advent. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on hurricane recovery in the Virgin Islands. Click here to read more and here for a photo gallery.

[Episcopal News Service – Tortola, Virgin Islands] St. Paul’s Mission parishioners pray by name for the children who went off-island to attend school in the aftermath of two hurricanes that devastated the Virgin Islands last September. A year later, many of them haven’t returned.

When Huberta Hamlet, the church’s junior warden called the Rev. Sandra Malone, St. Paul’s vicar, after the storm to tell her that her sister’s company was airlifting them out and that they were taking the children away, Malone sat on her bed and cried.

Of church’s 12 children, a small but active group, two have returned.

“I think that impacted the church a lot,” said Malone; even more so given parishioners were not given an opportunity to say goodbye and offer a proper send-off to one family that moved permanently to another island.

Most of St. Paul’s parishioners are related and children breathe life into the community, which like most Episcopal churches serves an older population. Children leaving to study abroad is a reality of island life, but it’s usually delayed until college. Irma and Maria changed that.

Angelica Pini, 15, a secondary student at St. George’s Episcopal School, was sent to live with relatives in Forli, Italy. She didn’t have contact with her friends back on the island.

“It hurt me. I missed my family and friends,” she said.

At first, adjusting to the education system in Italy was difficult, and, at the time, even though she spoke Italian (her father is Italian), she didn’t read or write the language. But the worst part, she said, was when she arrived at her aunt’s house, the vibration from a nearby train station gave her flashbacks to the vibration she felt during the hurricane.

“I woke up at 12 a.m. and thought this is another hurricane,” said Pini. “I thought, I have to tell my aunt because if I stay here every night, I’m going to be traumatized.”

Many of Pini’s classmates left too, at least in the hurricanes’ immediate aftermath.

Eleventh grader Aniyah Wilkinson, 15, and her family evacuated to Puerto Rico after Irma only to get caught in Hurricane Maria’s path 16 days later.

“It was horrible, people were scavenging for food and water,” she said.

On Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma ripped through the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, stripping the islands of vegetation and damaging or destroying the majority of homes and buildings.

The classrooms at St. George’s Primary School on Tortola remain damaged, which is starting to get on parents’ nerves, said Cherilyn Anderson, the school’s principal.

Both St. George’s secondary and primary schools suffered significant damage and remained closed until October. And both schools were chosen to participate in a UNICEF program designed to help children process stress and trauma following a disaster.

Strong winds or rain evoked students’ fears in the storm’s aftermath, said Dana Lewis Ambrose, principal of St. George’s Secondary School.

The school held group therapy and art therapy workshops to help students process their memories and emotions. UNICEF also trained teachers in how to identify trauma.

In early September, as the Atlantic hurricane season approached its peak and three storms had formed off Africa’s west coast, students were on edge.

“What I’m hearing now is that some are thinking that the same thing is going to happen,” said Odalys Gonzalez, a Spanish teacher.

St. George’s Primary School reopened on Oct. 2, 2017with 126 students, down from 216 before the storm. Many of the students went abroad, but they’ve returned this year and enrollment has reached 238 with St. George’s enrolling students from other schools, said Cherilyn Anderson, she school’s principal.

The primary school introduced its own coping program, SMILE, which stood for Share, Manage, Interact, Love and Embrace, devoting the last 30 minutes of each day to helping students cope with life after the hurricanes. It also used the UNICEF curriculum.

“Coming from St. Lucia, I’ve seen lots of floods and hurricanes, and I know students need to cope,” said Anderson. “I just knew they would need something because as an adult I was feeling that I had to cope.”

Irma was the first hurricane many of the students had ever experienced.

Some of Tortola’s public elementary school students are attending school in tents provided by UNICEF. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

“They couldn’t stop talking … who had to go into the refrigerator, who had to hide in the cupboard,” she said. “You’re kind of happy they are children because they don’t make so much of it … living with others, living without electricity and water.

“Their first sense of normalcy was returning to school and they were happy to be here.”

After the hurricanes, Anderson and the school’s teachers began cleaning the school, which suffered serious damage, of debris. Many of the teachers came to help clean the school even before they cleaned their own homes.

“That’s why we were one of the first schools to open,” she said.

When school started, Anderson brought in an iron, so teachers could iron their clothes, which they’d had to hand wash and wring out. At home, she cut the cord off an old iron and warmed it on the stove. The school had power three weeks after the storm, but Anderson didn’t get power at home until February. Each night she’d read herself to sleep with a flashlight balanced on her shoulder.

The Rev. Sandra Malone, vicar at St. Paul’s Mission, and her family sheltered in this walk-in closet during Hurricane Irma. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

St. Paul’s and St. George’s Anglican Church are the two Episcopal-Anglican churches on Tortola, which is part of the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands. The diocese covers five islands, connected by ferries and small planes. Three of the islands – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, are U.S. territories. Tortola and Virgin Gorda are British territories. A hurricane in 1916 destroyed St. Paul’s Church. The Rev. Ralph Perry-Gore, who is buried in the parish cemetery, restored it in 1937.

Tortola is the largest of the British Virgin Islands. Its hills, where the people live, are steep. In the 27 years that Malone has lived there, she’s witnessed the temperature rise It’s generally hotter, she said, and it’s harder to identify the rainy season. Those are changes she attributes to climate change.

“The seasons are shifting and not so easily identifiable,” she said. “We live pretty close to the ground and can see what’s happening. At the sea, you can see the erosion and the coral dying. When you live it, it’s hard to deny it.”

Malone, her husband, Meade, and their 16-year-old son, Timothy, spent five or six hours riding out the storm in a third-floor walk-in closet, all the while Meade holding the door closed as the wind threatened to open it. Most all of St. Paul’s parishioners tell similar stories of sheltering in bathrooms and closets for hours and struggling to hold shut the door. Felicito Moses and a friend sheltered in a closet while two feet of water rose around them.

The Rev. Sandra Malone, vicar at St. Paul’s Mission on Tortola, and Huberta Hamlet, St. Paul’s junior warden, look out over Long Bay. Long Bay? Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Parishioner Judith Charles sheltered from the storm in her cousin’s house, her own house completely destroyed. As Irma approached, she watched the wind dance the water left and right. When the storm passed, and she saw her home “ripped to shreds” she didn’t cry a tear. “It was done. What could I do … in the aftermath it was like an apocalypse. It looked like Beirut, bombed out; people looked bombed out and sad.”

At times, said Malone, winds gusted up to 235 mph. “How do you prepare for something like that? The only thing you can do is what you know.” It was a different kind of hurricane that also brought tornadoes. “Reports say it measured on the seismic scale,” she said.

Standing in long lines for hours under the hot sun for food and water that may run out before they get to the front of the line, the lack of construction materials and a shortage of craftsmen to make repairs make an already bad situation worse. “It’s dehumanizing,” said Beryl Smith, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Women’s president.

This year, for some whose homes have been prepared, the tropical rains from an Aug. 30 storm increased anxiety. “A lot of people found the work was not done right,” she said.

Housing is tight. Before the hurricanes a two-bedroom, furnished apartment rented for $1,000 a month. Now a two-bedroom, unfurnished apartment rents for $1,600.

In Irma’s aftermath, St. Paul’s became a supply distribution center and later served as in immunization clinic. The congregation received help from companion parishes in the Diocese of Alabama, and it continues to serve the community, providing food and schools supplies to families in need.

A parishioner gifted St. Paul’s a vicarage, an apartment in Long Bay, which the congregation had used as a retreat center but recently planned to rent as an income-generating property. Irma, however, destroyed its interior and the apartment requires a complete renovation. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The congregation moved back into church on the first Sunday of Advent. On the first anniversary of Irma, Malone brought in a psychologist to talk to the community and performed a litany of remembrance.

On the Sunday after the storm, Malone made her way to the church, which is on Sea Cow’s Bay, named for the manatees that used to swim in its waters. With the devastation, it took her some time to find her way because nothing looked the same.

“It’s very surreal, you’re walking around shell shocked,” said Malone.

When Malone arrived at the church, she found Beverly Hodge Smith, then senior warden, already there cleaning the parish hall and she began to help. Then, they got word to Realdis Todman, who’d been there earlier in the day. Together they carried the altar out of the church, set it up in the parish hall and held services.

From there, “everyone just helped each other out,” she said.

–Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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Notifican a la diócesis de Rio Grande de exitoso proceso de consentimiento canónigo

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 2:57pm

El obispo presidente y primado Michael B. Curry y el registrador de la Convención General, Rdo. canónigo Michael Barlowe, han notificado a la Diócesis Episcopal de Río Grande que el obispo electo Michael Buerkel Hunn ha obtenido la aprobación de la mayoría en el proceso de consentimiento canónigo descrito en el Cánon III.11.3.

Al dar su consentimiento para su ordenación y consagración, los comités permanentes y los obispos con jurisdicción dan fe de no conocer “ningún impedimento a causa del cual” el obispo electo Hunn no pueda ser ordenado al oficio de obispo y creen que su elección se llevó a cabo en conformidad con los cánones.

El Rdo. canónigo Michael Buerkel Hunn fue electo obispo el 5 de mayo. El obispo primado Curry oficiará en su servicio de ordenación y consagración el 3 de noviembre.

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Mothers’ Union delivers food, water to flood-stranded families in Myanmar

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 2:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Members of the Mothers’ Union in The Church of the Province of Myanmar are helping alleviate suffering caused by flooding in the country. According to Reuters’ Relief Net, almost 79,000 people from four townships in the country’s Bago Region had to flee their homes after the Swar Chaung dam was breached at the end of August.

Read the full article here.

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Welsh bishops to explore ‘formal provision’ for same-sex couples

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 2:19pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The bishops of the Church in Wales will explore formal provision for same-sex couples in church after a debate Sept. 12 in the province’s Governing Body. Members of the Governing Body – the Church in Wales’ synod – agreed that “it is pastorally unsustainable for the church to make no formal provision for those in same-gender relationships.”

Read the full article here.

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Archbishop of Canterbury urges government to put food banks out of business

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 3:54pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has used an address to Britain’s Trade Union Congress to speak of a society where church-run food banks and homeless shelters are no longer needed. Archbishop Justin delivered his address as the TUC gathered in Manchester for their annual conference in its 150th year, and told them that “unions must have a vision of a just and a righteous society.”

Read the full article here.

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Tight-knit Virgin Gorda Anglican community drawn closer in the aftermath of Irma, Maria

Wed, 09/12/2018 - 3:03pm

Gladstone Walters, 86, a bell ringer at St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in Virgin Gorda, stands outside his damaged home. Walters stayed with family following Hurricane Irma, but has since moved back into his unrepaired house. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories on hurricane recovery in the Virgin Islands. Click here to read more and here for a photo gallery. 

[Episcopal News Service – Virgin Gorda, Virgin Islands] Last year’s back-to-back hurricanes hit Virgin Gorda’s elderly population particularly hard. Many of them had worked and saved their entire lives to build homes that were destroyed in a day. In the 2017 storm season’s aftermath, 14 seniors perished. Some died from existing conditions made worse by the storm; others succumbed to despair and broken hearts.

“The seniors got hit the hardest,” said Denise Reovan, who serves on St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church’s vestry and as dean of the Virgin Island deanery, which includes St. Mary’s, as well as St. George’s and St. Paul’s on Tortola.

“There, seniors who have spent their lives building 10’x8’ homes; for some it’s all they have and have lived for … and to wake up one day and it’s gone,” she said.

The Rev. Eriminie George, St. Mary’s supply priest, visits with Ovilda Stevens, 92. Every day Stevens sits in the same chair next to the window in her family’s café, lamenting the loss of her home. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

“They are displaced, and they say, ‘I want to go in my own home’ and you have to tell them, no, you can’t go.”

Gladstone Walters, 86, was one such senior. His home, near the ferry terminal, was severely damaged. After living next door with a family member, Walters eventually moved back into his own home, despite the damage. Like many others whose homes were either uninsured or underinsured, he had little money available to make repairs.

During a recent lunchtime meeting at St. Mary’s on Church Hill Road in South Valley, Walters sat silent, his head hung low, listening to the others who’d gathered – many of whom have worshiped together for generations — to share their stories of survival during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The hurricanes struck the island last September within 16 days of each other, damaging more than 95 percent of the island’s structures and stripping it of vegetation.

“Thank you for sparing life, we give you thanks, have mercy on us, spare us,” he mumbled. “God is love. Thank you for the spared life.”

St. Mary the Virgin, the only Episcopal Church on Virgin Gorda, lost all of its windows during Hurricane Irma. The congregation didn’t move back into the church until July. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

On Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017, Irma terrorized Virgin Gorda residents for eight hours. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., otherwise stationary objects were flying through the air as the Category 5 hurricane’s at-times 250 mph winds ripped through the island.

“When Irma came, she was coming in this direction,” said Vanessa Rymer, senior warden, gesturing east. “She headed northeast and came right down on us and then kept changing her coordinates.”

The 135-year-old church, situated on 3.5 acres overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, lost its windows. The roof was damaged when the winds blew off the shingles, the bell towers collapsed to the ground, the organ was destroyed, the church’s pavilion totaled, and the rectory damaged. An addition to the original structure that housed a music school crumbled. Property leased to the government for agriculture remains unplanted. The list goes on.

St. Mary’s pavilion, which overlooks the sea, was used by the community for jazz concerts, theatrical performances and other cultural events. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

Part of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, which covers five islands and includes both the U.S. and British overseas territories, Virgin Gorda is home to St. Mary’s, the only Episcopal-Anglican church on the island. All told, Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused over $102 billion in damages; $7 million alone in damages to church properties.

St. Mary the Virgin celebrated 135 years on Aug. 15, 2018, explained Vanessa Rymer, senior warden. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church members consider themselves “Anglican” given the British influence; they became Episcopalians when in the 1990s the churches on Virgin Gorda and Tortola became part of the Diocese of the Virgin Islands; a geographically based decision, they say.

Around 4,000 people from all over the Caribbean – St. Kitts, Anguilla – and expats from the United States and United Kingdom live on the 8-square-mile volcanic island discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1893. Columbus named the island Virgin Gorda because it looked like a “pregnant virgin,” locals say.

In Irma’s immediate aftermath residents spotted C-130 aircraft and helicopters flying overhead to survey the damage and CNN reported no one survived. Days later, a British ship arrived with hundreds of body bags, residents said.

Longtime St. Mary’s parishioner Chandra Carr, left, and Denise Reovan, who serves on St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church’s vestry, talk about the church’s plans to plant a garden on property that before the storm was leased to the government. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

Still today, an uneasiness pervades on the island, which even in good times can seem isolated. Shortages of building materials and craftsmen mean residents are still living in damaged homes. Of the laborers working on the island, many are working under contractors building a luxury resort or working to repair part-time residences of wealthy expats. One ATM, no banks, serves the entire island, and residents who do not have direct deposit must take a 30-minute ferry ride to Tortola to cash a check.

To watch the laborers commuting in buses to work on the resort and vacation villas, “is demoralizing for all of us,” said Chandra Carr, a lifelong St. Mary’s parishioner who bought her own property on the island in 1985.

Joy Defreitas, a Sunday school teacher, further explained that the contractors hire the workers for the resort and the villas. They can work for residents in the afternoon and on the weekends.

“Some are available, some are not,” Defreitas said. “When you work on a contract you don’t have much time left over.”

The challenges to residents across the Virgin Islands remain the same.

“What we knew as normalcy will never happen again,” said Reovan, a situation made worse by the distance between the churches and the islands.

“Isolation is a normal situation. When Bishop Curry visited in January, he took the time to hear from people in each church. “’You’re not alone, believe me, you are not alone.’ He didn’t say ‘help is on its way,’ but it came,” said Reovan.

Following Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s January 2018 visit to the Virgin Islands, Episcopal Relief & Development stepped up and along with the Diocese of Alabama initiated a small grants program.

It’s a blessing that St. Mary’s conch shell-shaped baptismal font survived the storm, said Vanessa Rymer, senior warden. Photo: Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

St. Mary’s is using funds from a mini-grant program to create “Lunch for a Bunch,” a program to feed the island’s senior citizens.

“You don’t have to be Anglican or Episcopalian, you just have to be a human in need,” said Reovan.

“We have parishioners – we are a proud set of people, proud and independent – people who don’t have a meal and they won’t ask, and you’ll see them out and buying food and they can’t afford it,”

St. Mary’s hasn’t had a regular, full-time priest for eight years. A priest working a six-month stint has been the norm, which has affected church membership and growth, a situation made worse by the storms.

Under the leadership of the Rev. Eriminie George, a supply priest who travels from Tortola to Virgin Gorda on Sundays and some Wednesdays, the church continues to serve the community.

Still, George doesn’t feel like she’s doing enough.

“As clergy we’re not doing enough. I should be looking out for the people’s needs. We are part of the Episcopal Church. There are people who’ve been giving their pittance to the church and we’ve come to that point where we need to meet their needs,” said George. “There are seniors who worked so hard and built their homes … where is the church now to pick up the shreds. We need to meet the needs of the individuals first and foremost.”

–Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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New Testament scholars to lay the biblical foundations for the Lambeth Conference

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 3:12pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Work to begin laying the biblical foundations for the next Lambeth Conference will get underway later this year when 35 leading New Testament scholars from different denominations around the world gather for the St. Augustine Seminar at Lambeth Palace. Around 800 bishops from around the Anglican Communion will gather at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, in the summer of 2020 for the once in a decade Lambeth Conference.

Read the full article here.

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El Obispo Primado agradece a todos las oraciones al tiempo de volver al trabajo

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 9:10am

[Episcopal News Service] “Quiero darles las gracias por todas las tarjetas, los buenos deseos y, sobre todo, por todas las oraciones”, dijo el obispo primado Michael B. Curry en un mensaje por vídeo publicado en Facebook a su regreso al trabajo luego de una operación de próstata a que fuera sometido a fines de julio.

“Salí muy bien de esta cirugía. Todo está bien”, dijo Curry en el vídeo. “El informe patológico fue muy bueno, y estoy lenta pero firmemente de regreso al trabajo que me encanta hacer”. Él dice haber leído centenares de tarjetas y cartas que le enviaran al Centro Denominacional de la Iglesia Episcopal. “Son una bendición”, afirmó.

El 25 de julio el obispo Curry dio a conocer que le habían diagnosticado cáncer de próstata y que tendría que someterse a una operación para la extirpación de la glándula prostática. “He estado recuperándome”, dijo. “En agosto, estuve casi todo el tiempo en casa y recuperándome. Las cosas avanzan lentamente, pero avanzan”, dijo el obispo Curry que recientemente ha reanudado su trabajo y estaba en Atlanta para hablar en una cena en beneficio de Day1 un ministerio de medios de difusión. También fue galardonado por el Consejo Municipal de Atlanta.

Day1 es el ministerio ecuménico de radio e internet que antes era conocido como “La Hora Protestante” que ha transmitido sermones de predicadores de las denominaciones históricas cada semana durante 73 años. El programa lo produce la Alianza por los Medios Cristianos [Alliance for Christian Media]. El obispo Curry fue un colaborador asiduo del programa en los años 90, miembro de la junta asesora de Day1 y ex miembro de su junta de síndicos.

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A year later, Virgin Islander Episcopalians look toward long-term recovery from Irma, Maria

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 6:13am

The bell tower at St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church on St. John sits in front of the church and the roof remains covered by a Federal Emergency Management Agency tarpaulin. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands] A year after two devastating hurricanes swept through the Virgin Islands, building materials and skilled-labor shortages have delayed recovery. Blue tarpaulins covering damaged rooftops have frayed under the hot sun, with each threat of rain increasing Virgin Islanders’ anxiety, particularly as the Atlantic hurricane season reaches its peak.

“This time of year, many people are very anxious,” said Virgin Islands Bishop E. Ambrose Gumbs, in a Sept. 7 interview with Episcopal News Service at his office. “These tarps are brittle, and the wind just rips them to shreds.”

Cleamena Duncan, junior warden at St. Ursula’s Episcopal Church, opens the front door to the church on Sept. 3 on St. John. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Across the islands, the story is the same: a lack of supplies and craftspeople, and delayed insurance claims, have frayed peoples’ nerves. Thursday, Aug. 30, brought rain that forced some to take shelter in their vehicles as the water came through the tarps on their roofs.

A person cannot simply go to a hardware store and purchase windows, doors or galvanized roofing panels; materials must be ordered on the mainland, and cargo ships transporting materials must first pass through Puerto Rico, where the need is just as great and the population much larger — 3.4 million compared to the Virgin Islands’ 130,000. Worse yet, building materials can cost three to four times as much on the islands as in the continental United States.

Everyone has suffered, especially the elderly, many of whom lost their homes and were separated from family; some have died from illness and storm-related stress. Children are experiencing the same ailments as adults; high-blood pressure, diabetes and anxiety, said Gumbs.

“The new normal has not yet arrived,” he said.

As the one-year anniversary of Irma came and went, three storms, all of which reached hurricane strength by Sept. 10, were forming in the Atlantic. Hurricanes come off West Africa’s coast and either gain strength or dissipate as they work their way east across the Atlantic Ocean.

Last year, Hurricane Irma crossed the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sept. 6, 2017, causing extensive damage. Two weeks later, on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria passed over the islands as a Category 5 storm before making landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane. The two hurricanes led to thousands of deaths and more than $102 billion in damages. Damage to church-owned properties is $7 million, according to Church Insurance, which insures church buildings.

“Irma came and left us with something to think about, and Maria came in and finished the job,” said Rita Payne-Samuel, Episcopal Church Women president at Nazareth-by-the Sea Episcopal Church on St. Thomas.

Still, the hurricanes reinforced what it means to be church, which goes beyond the buildings.

“That’s the human part of church and fellowship,” Payne-Samuel said. “People just got together and helped each other.”

Nazareth-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church operates out of a storefront in a strip mall on St. Thomas. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Nazareth-by-the-Sea meets in a strip mall storefront since Irma destroyed its building, she said. It is without a priest, and like Holy Cross is served by Gumbs, making it difficult for the bishop to make regular pastoral visits to the diocese’s other congregations.

Pastoral support is one thing the wider Episcopal Church could offer the Diocese of the Virgin Islands in the short-term, the bishop said.

“We need our brethren to stand in the gap with us, send some clergy down,” said Gumbs. “They [his clergy] are battle weary from the hurricanes.”

The Diocese of the Virgin Islands consists of 14 congregations spread over five islands; three – St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix – under U.S. jurisdiction, and two – Tortola and Virgin Gorda – under British rule. Residents living in the U.S. Virgin Islands are U.S. citizens; residents of the Virgin Islands are British Overseas Territories citizens.

Ferries, planes and sea planes shuttle passengers around the islands, which were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named for St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins.

The one Episcopal Church on St. John is named for St. Ursula. Since the storm, it has served as the island’s only senior citizen center, where at least 70 seniors gather Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the church’s basement for meals and activities.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on St. Thomas has some 700 members and serves a densely populated, diverse community called Sugar Estate, explained the Rev. Lenroy K. Cabey, rector. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Back on St. Thomas, in Sugar Estate, a densely populated, diverse community served by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, housing is scarce and residents, many of whom worked in the hard-hit tourism industry, are working two and three part-time jobs to make ends meet, said the Rev. Lenroy K. Cabey, the 700-member church’s rector.

Cabey has witnessed an increase in demand for social services, as well as food. St. Andrew’s hopes to have its soup kitchen back up and running by the end of September, he said.

Riise Richards, the diocese’s volunteer coordinator and an Episcopal representative on the Virgin Islands’ Long-Term Recovery Group, also has witnessed increased need.

“A lot of people are suffering and suffering in silence,” said Richards. “We asked people what they need and there was hesitance.”

The Rev. Lenroy K. Cabey, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on St. Thomas, points to the waterline following last year’s hurricanes. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

The people’s hesitance, Richards and others across the islands agreed, comes from the shame of needing to admit they need help. Still, help is what they need and since the storm, Richards has been working to retrofit some churches and diocesan property to accommodate volunteers who can assist the diocese in its estimated three- to- five-year recovery.

“There were a lot of homes completely destroyed and a lot of people who still have tarps … mold, homes that still need to be gutted, and we need family also,” she said. “The church is the people.”

“We are here to serve; we are the body of Christ,” she said. “And we are here to ensure that people can get their lives back together.”

At Holy Spirit, which sits on hill in Estate Hope, on the Western End of St. Thomas, part of the church has been converted into dormitories to house volunteers. Last week, nine AmeriCorps service volunteers were staying in the dorms and working to remove debris, building a deck at the back of the church and working in warehouses to sort and catalogue donations.

Gumbs, who wants the church “to be a safe place,” gave the mandate to ready the churches to house volunteers who can assist with the long-term recovery efforts, said Richards. Both Holy Spirit and Domini House, which is across the street from All Saints Cathedral, can house volunteers.

In the hurricanes’ aftermath, Episcopal Relief & Development and the Diocese of Alabama, a companion diocese, have funded the churches’ outreach ministries through mini grants. Both are committed to the Virgin Islands’ long-term recovery, and Alabama is anxious to send volunteers.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Senior Warden Leroy Claxton opens a barrel of supplies containing infant diapers. St. Luke’s has been designated a government-appointed point of distribution and designated shelter. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Relief & Development has provided financial assistance through churches and schools to support ongoing outreach ministries that are engaged in recovery and preparedness, including helping to repair and harden shelters, providing case management and direct assistance to people impacted, compiling preparedness kits for this upcoming hurricane season, supporting community gardening, and sheltering.

“The people in the Virgin Islands continue to face enormous challenges a year after the devastating hurricanes. We are proud to remain a partner in the ongoing recovery,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s senior vice president for programs.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, located atop a hill in St. Thomas, survived Hurricanes Irma and Maria relatively unscathed compared to other churches. However, the church’s original structure was destroyed by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service

St. Luke’s, which sits atop a hill on St. Thomas, suffered only minor damage during the hurricanes, and now is a government-appointed point of distribution and a designated shelter in the event of another disaster. Barrels of supplies, including clothing, nonperishable food items and water, diapers and other infant necessities and toiletries have been shipped in large blue plastic barrels from as far away as Bronx, New York, where Virgin Islanders have family and civic connections.

To one degree or another all of the diocese’s churches suffered some damage. On St. Croix, San Francisco, a mission church with the diocese’s only Spanish-speaking congregation has to be razed. St. Mary’s on Virgin Gorda lost its windows; the pavilion, which overlooks the sea and was used to host community cultural events, is destroyed; the rectory is in disrepair. On Tortola, St. Paul’s suffered damage, and an income-generating apartment gifted to the church by a parishioner needs to be gutted. At St. Ursula’s, on St. John, the bell tower fell to the ground, windows are boarded up and a blue tarp protects the roof. As with residences, structural recovery is slow.

The church properties are insured by Church Insurance, which falls under the umbrella of the Church Pension Group.

“There were some initial challenges getting to the Virgin Islands as there were limited flights and available accommodations after the hurricane,” said C. Curtis Ritter, senior vice president and head of corporate communications for CPG, in an email to ENS. “We also were challenged to find available contractors because the demand was so high and the wait times were long,”

“We also spent additional time working with the diocese to think of ways to make building repairs that were more sustainable; where possible, we are replacing older buildings with structures that should be more able to handle high winds. It took a while to sort this out, but the partnership has been productive.”

Meanwhile, life goes on.

“A year ago, we were weeping and a-wailing,” said Payne-Samuel, on Sept. 7, a year and a day after Irma brought destruction to the island.

–Lynette Wilson is a reporter and managing editor of Episcopal News Service.

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Anglican Consultative Council to consider global safeguarding guidelines

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 5:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Members of the Anglican Consultative Council will discuss global safeguarding guidelines when they meet next year in Hong Kong. The guidelines are being drawn up by an international Anglican Safe Church Commission, which was established by the Council when it last met in 2016, in the Zambian capital Lusaka. The guidelines will be finalized when the Commission next meet in November and will be made available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

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South Sudan bishop killed in plane crash

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 5:15pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Yirol Bishop Simon Adut Yuang in South Sudan was one of 20 people killed when a plane carrying them from the South Sudanese capital Juba crashed into a lake as it attempted to land at Yirol Airport. Reports say that thick fog around Yirol, in the center of the country, may have played a part in the accident. Only three of the plane’s passengers survived.

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