A Paróquia da Ascensão iniciou a semana comemorativa dos cinquenta anos de presença da Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil na cidade de Cascavel com uma celebração litúrgica no dia 23 de novembro pp.. Focada na importância da comunidade cristã como espaço onde as pessoas se nutrem da Palavra e da Eucaristia, convivem entre si e são enviadas em missão, a celebração teve por objetivo comprometer ainda mais os(as) episcopais anglicanos(as) da Paróquia da Ascensão com a construção do Reino de Deus.
Nos dias 25 e 28 pp., em conjunto com outras organizações e movimentos sociais, a Paróquia da Ascensão abriu suas portas para dois eventos significativos: “Diálogo inter-religioso, ecumenismo, espiritualidade e justiça social” e “Políticas afirmativas em defesa da mulher”. Ambos os eventos estavam inseridos dentro da programação dos ‘16 Dias de Ativismo de Gênero’ que pela primeira vez acontece em Cascavel.
Representantes de religiões de matrizes Afro (Cadomblé, Umbanda e Ifá), espíritas (Kardecistas), católicos romanos (Pastoral do Menor) e anglicanos, estabeleceram uma roda de conversa em busca de proximidade, conhecimento mútuo, respeito às diferenças e acolhida fraternal. Terminamos o encontro com um caloroso e significativo abraço, porém, motivados para um segundo encontro que aconteceu no dia 04 de dezembro pp. no terreiro de Umbanda da Mãe Elaine. Concretamente ficaram definidas algumas ações que darão visibilidade a essa proximidade inter-religiosa: No dia 21 de dezembro pv. uma caminhada noturna pelo calçadão da cidade, com ênfase na religiosidade Afro (instrumentos, músicas, vestes, etc.); integração dos terreiros ao trabalho de enfrentamento à violência juvenil e um grande seminário sobre cultura, religiosidade, gênero, etc. que deve acontecer em 2014 numa parceria com a Unioeste e diferentes organizações.
Mulheres da APP Sindicato e da Marcha Mundial fizeram uma exposição de como as mulheres estão se organizando a nível mundial, no Brasil e aqui em Cascavel para a garantia de seus direitos e o enfrentamento da violência. Nos dias 07-08 de março pp., mulheres anglicanas (Paróquia da Ascensão e da Capela Jesus Cristo Libertador do MLST), já haviam participado do encontro de formação acontecido na APP Cascavel, e, agora, devem fazer parte de forma mais consistente da Marcha Mundial.
Embora não fizesse parte da programação comemorativa dos cinquenta anos, aconteceu na Câmara Municipal de Cascavel, na noite do dia 26 de novembro pp., o Ato em memória de Marçal Tupã Y, liderança Guarani do Mato Grosso do Sul, morto ha trinta anos atrás. Sua voz profética em defesa da cultura, da religiosidade e dos territórios indígenas foi calada tempos depois de ter pedido ao Papa João Paulo II que a Igreja se colocasse ao lado dos pobres e indefesos. O Ato foi chamado pelo Vereador do PCdoB Paulo Porto, professor da Unioeste e indigenista e contou com a presença de dezesseis organizações e movimentos, entre elas a Pastoral Anglicana da Terra. No final, todas as organizações e movimentos assinaram um documento denunciando a situação de violência a que estão submetidos os indígenas Guarani do Oeste do Paraná e do estado do Mato Grosso do Sul, e exigindo a imediata demarcação de seus tradicionais territórios. O documento foi entregue em mãos à Ministra da Casa Civil Gleisi Hoffmann que esteve recentemente em visita à cidade de Marechal Cândido Rondon, e também encaminhado à Funai.
No sábado, dia trinta de novembro, tivemos a grande celebração dos cinquenta anos com a presença de D. Naudal Alves Gomes, da Rveda. Lúcia Sirtoli de Londrina, do Pe. Martinho, jesuíta da Paróquia Sto. Inácio e do Pr. Rui que é Luterano. Paroquianos, anglicanos(as) de outras comunidades, amigos e amigas ocuparam todos os espaços do templo. Muitas pessoas tiveram que permanecer do lado de fora.
Tendo a primeira vela da Coroa do Advento à frente e o tradicional hino do Advento “O esperado” sendo cantado, entraram os celebrantes e foi então iniciada a grande celebração. Em seguida, um breve relato sobre a história da Igreja Anglicana no mundo, no Brasil e no Paraná. Destaque foi dado à presença Episcopal Anglicana no Oeste do Paraná, e em especial na cidade de Cascavel.
A Bíblia foi então entronizada com uma música do compositor Zé Vicente interpretada por uma jovem da Pastoral da Juventude da Igreja Católica Romana. Na sequência uma série de pequenas leituras que proclamavam a verdadeira religiosidade e o papel da comunidade na construção de um mundo melhor (Mq. 6,6-8; At. 2,42-45; Rm. 12,5-8; Lc. 8,16-18). Foram ainda lembradas as “Cinco Marcas da Missão da Comunhão Anglicana”, e consequentemente foram feitos os pedidos de perdão em vista das limitações e fraquezas da comunidade quanto à Evangelização, Proclamação e Testemunho.
D. Naudal em sua homilia falou do jeito de ser da Igreja e sua missão, e particularmente sobre a presença Episcopal Anglicana no Paraná, no Oeste e em Cascavel.
Duas crianças receberam o Batismo (Kauê e Diego) e dois adolescentes (Gabriel e Gabriela) foram Confirmados. A água do Batismo foi levada ao altar por crianças da comunidade ao som de uma música que dizia da importância da água e o cuidado que devemos ter para com esse dom de Deus, tendo em vista da preservação da vida e do planeta.
Durante o ofertório, jovens e adultos da Capela Jesus Cristo Libertador, do Pto. Missionário do Jardim Colméia, do Pto. Missionário do Assentamento Olga Benário de Sta. Teresa do Oeste e da comunidade de Foz do Iguaçu apresentaram uma mística que expressava o comprometimento da Igreja com a construção de um mundo mais justo e fraterno.
Após a Comunhão foram lembradas e homenageadas pessoas que contribuíram para que a Igreja Episcopal Anglicana se estabelecesse na cidade de Cascavel, também outras pessoas e organizações que hoje dela fazem parte ou com ela congregam em ações transformadoras. O Rev. Phillip Getchell, missionário americano que veio morar em Toledo no ano de 1961, que atualmente reside na Califórnia; o leigo Daniel Bernardes da Silva, já falecido; a família Blanck, em cuja casa foi celebrado o primeiro culto em 27 de dezembro de 1963; o Rev. Fritz Schornack, também já falecido; Dna. Selma Bernardes da Silva, paroquiana mais antiga; o casal Gilmar e Olívia do Pto. Missionário Sta. Maria Madalena do Jardim Colméia; a Capela Jesus Cristo Libertador do MLST; o Pto. Missionário do Assentamento Olga Benário de Sta. Teresa do Oeste; o Movimento “Caminhada pela Vida” de enfrentamento à Violência contra os jovens da região norte de Cascavel e o Bispo diocesano, D. Naudal Alves Gomes.
Descerraram a placa comemorativa representando diferentes momentos da vida da comunidade a senhora Selma (mais antiga), o senhor Lauro (que veio para a Igreja em 1998) e a Sirlei (recebida em 2013).
Dada à benção, e cantando “Vai ser tão bonita”, de Zé Vicente, continuamos nossa celebração no salão paroquial com um coquetel de salgados, refrigerante e bolo.
Completando os dias de comemoração, no dia 02 de dezembro p.p., a Igreja e a Paróquia foram homenageadas na Câmara Municipal de Cascavel pelos vereadores presentes à sessão. O ver. Paulo Porto enalteceu a presença e a ação da Igreja na região, e em especial na cidade de Cascavel. D. Naudal, rebeu em nome da Igreja um certificado e pode falar aos presentes sobre o jeito de ser da Igreja e sua missão nos dias de hoje.
[Anglican Church of Canada] One of Canada’s foremost experts in philanthropy has been appointed interim director of General Synod’s Resources for Mission Department, the group charged with promoting stewardship and developing partnerships throughout the church.
Monica Patten, chair of the Resources for Mission coordinating committee, will take up the position in January. She succeeds Vianney (Sam) Carriere who has served as interim director and director since 2010. The Rt. Rev. Rob Hardwick, bishop of Qu’Appelle and a member of the committee, will succeed her as chair of the coordinating committee.
Ms. Patten, who lives in Ottawa, is the retired president and chief executive officer of Community Foundations of Canada. She is a recipient of the Order of Canada and the Anglican Award of Merit. She has served two triennia as chair of General Synod’s Financial Management Committee.
Resources for Mission encompasses the General Synod’s annual giving opportunities, stewardship education and development, planned giving and major gifts, and other initiatives.
Mr. Carriere’s resignation as director and Ms. Patten’s appointment as interim is in recognition of the changing needs and directions of the department. Mr. Carriere’s term was meant to solidify the department as a team and formulate guiding principles under which it would go forward.
A recent operational review of the department noted that Mr. Carriere had achieved those goals, and that the department is now poised to benefit from leadership with expertise, a track record in fundraising and development, and that is grounded in the life of the church.
[Diocese of New York] On Dec. 7, at a special election convention held at Manhattan’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Rev. Allen K. Shin was declared the bishop suffragan-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The new bishop suffragan will replace Bishop Catherine Roskam, who retired at the end of 2011, and will work alongside the diocesan bishop, the Rt. Rev. Andrew M.L. Dietsche.
Shin, who is currently rector of St. John’s Church, Huntington, Long Island, NY was elected on the 4th round of balloting by a majority of the active clergy who participated in the election AND by a majority of the lay delegates who participated in the election. A brief biography of the bishop elect may be found here (where you will also find information on the other nominees and videos of all).
Shin was one of five candidates nominated in early October by a special Committee to Elect a Bishop, which began work following the call for the election of a suffragan by Bishop Dietsche’s predecessor as diocesan, Bishop Mark S. Sisk, at the diocese’s annual convention in November 2012. Bishop Sisk retired, and Bishop Dietsche was installed as XVI Bishop of New York, on February 2, 2013.
The bishop suffragan-elect must now receive the consent of a majority both of the other diocesan bishops of the Episcopal Church and of the standing committees of the Church’s dioceses, before being consecrated in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Saturday, May 17, 2014.
[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] Beginning with a letter to the church planned for release this week, the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church is ready to start getting increasingly specific about its suggestions for the future shape of the churchwide organization.
“I do feel we are just on the verge of a real burst of productivity because I think we’re gelling our ideas,” Katy George said early in the group’s Dec. 7 session here.
The letter to the church “which paints the holistic vision of where we’re going and starts floating very specific and edgy ideas out there,” according to George, who convenes the task force with the Rev. Craig Loya, will be followed by a series of more specific recommendations on which TREC wants feedback from the church.
The current draft of the letter is “pretty bold about what we are doing and thinking on, and will shake things up, hopefully, and will signal where we are going,” she said.
The letter will also explain the issue areas on which the task force has chosen to focus. During the second day of TREC’s Dec. 6-7 meeting here at the Maritime Institute, outside of Baltimore, the task force divided itself into new work groups, based on those focus areas, with the goal of refining the recommendations under consideration.
Draft versions of those recommendations would be released to church for comment on a bi-weekly schedule between mid-January and the end of February, according to a timeline laid out during the meeting.
“I think we’ve got a pretty sustainable work plan with a lot of momentum going forward,” Loya said.
And, it is likely that TREC’s letter will include a prayer for its work that the group has been using, along with an invitation for the entire church to join it in prayer.
The early 2014 publication schedule was set so that, at TREC’s next face-to-face meeting in March, the group can revise those draft recommendations based on feedback from the church.
“Some of our recommendations will need to be knitted so that we have a holistic vision for what the church actually is going to be and do,” George said during the meeting.
The recommendations, which were not detailed during the public sessions here, will include what the members suggest should happen to the churchwide organization, what specific recommends it will propose to General Convention, “and what parts we are actually just painting a vision that we hope other parts of the church adopts,” George said.
TREC’s work is anchored in General Convention Resolution C095, passed in July 2012, that called for a task force “to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the church’s structures, governance, and administration.” The 26-member task force is due to make public its report to General Convention public in late 2014.
ENS coverage of TREC’s open session the morning of Dec. 6 is here. The group met privately during that afternoon and evening. The task force also closed a portion of its half-day session Dec. 7.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service – Linthicum Heights, Maryland] By this time next year, the members of the Episcopal Church will have just recently learned what changes and plans the Task Force for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church will recommend to the General Convention. However, between now and then, much work remains for the 26-member group, including what more than one member said is the need to connect specific proposals for change to a bold vision of what the churchwide structures can be and do.
TREC’s work began after General Convention in July 2012, by way of Resolution C095, which called for a task force “to present the 78th General Convention with a plan for reforming the church’s structures, governance, and administration.” The task force is due to make public its report to General Convention in late 2014.
Katy George, who shares the work on convening the task force with the Rev. Craig Loya, told the group at the beginning of its Dec. 6-7 meeting here at the Maritime Institute, outside of Baltimore, that many task force members have expressed the feeling that “we’d like to step it up and really make sure that we are producing something fantastic.”
George told the group that she thinks it will be important for the task force to not just list its recommendations in its final report but to explain to the church “our holistic vision for how we’re hoping that the church moves in a new direction as a networked facilitator actually, as opposed to a corporation.”
And, she said, the group must be able to “really bring to life to the church how [the group’s proposals] will change how we spend our resources, how we spend our time, how we make decisions, we work together on mission.”
Council member Tom Little seemed to anticipate the path of discussion for the rest of the morning session when he suggested that as the group considers specific proposals “we may end up tweaking the vision.”
Engaging with the engagement process
The members spent most of the Dec. 6 morning session, which was open to the public, discussing what they have heard from its “church engagement process” thus far. The group developed an “engagement kit,” which was posted on its website in mid-October. It is downloadable in English or Spanish as a PDF or PowerPoint here and includes overviews, guidelines for engagement, facilitator’s notes, charts and other material.
The kit is meant for use at any local, diocesan, or churchwide gathering and anyone can lead the discussions it prompts and report the results to the task force. There is also an opportunity for online engagement, which is a series of four questions.
The kit is meant to help the task force hear from Episcopalians about “the memories, hopes and dreams” that they have for the church, according to the group’s website. The deadline for submitting information is March 14.
Nearly 190 groups and individuals have responded to the four online questions, sometimes with lengthy comments. All of those comments are posted just below the explanation of the engagement kit at the link above. More responses have come to the task force via other methods, putting the total number of responses somewhere between 260 and 280, according to the Ven. Robert Franken, who along with the Rev. Leng Lim, led the task force through a lengthy multi-part discussion of the responses received thus far.
The task force needs more input, Franken said, because the response to date “gives us a picture but it doesn’t yet give us the whole picture, and we want to make sure that the picture we’re getting is the right picture.”
Few of the task force members have answered the four online questions, according to a show of hands. And not all who have facilitated groups who used the engagement kit have supplied the results to the task force, Franken said.
“Where’s the data, folks?” Franken asked his colleagues.
Yet, many task force members who have used the engagement kit with groups reported having profound experiences.
When Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe used the process during a diocesan convention, “I couldn’t get people to stop talking,” he said.
The Rev. Kevin Nichols said he began using the engagement kit in his congregation, including with the confirmation class. “Every group was trying to go deeper spiritually by using the images that were presented,” he said. “I worried at first that maybe it was a little be too simplistic – that our questions weren’t grand enough – but with each group I felt like it went to a depth that I didn’t even imagine.”
During the Dec. 6 session, the members found some suggested ways of changing the churchwide structures as they considered some of the verbatim comments as well as summaries of all the input the task force has received. They also heard some general and specific suggestions from each other.
Those proposals were presented to them as “teaser,” in Leng’s words, rather than formal proposals.
“As a church predisposed to legislation, when someone says something, we think ‘Oh, my gosh, am I on board on this or not; is this a recommendation I can support?’ [and] then we go down the track of voting,” he cautioned. “We actually putting out ideas for you to test, to try on; we’re not asking you to buy, we’re really asking you to rent …we are trusting that something is going to unfold.”
Joan Delano, a consultant to the task force who works with the ClearLake Group as does Leng, summarized the input received thus far and she noted “a powerful sense of the importance of the liturgy, ritual, tradition and history” in the comments. “The strength of the mysticism theme was intriguing,” she added.
One question in the process asks “what do you think is the one thing The Church should hold on to and the one thing it could let go?” Delano, who was ill and could not be at the meeting, reported that the “hold on to” responses “were overwhelming about the spiritual side” of the Episcopal Church and the “let go” responses “were overwhelming about administration and governance.”
“The respondents overwhelmingly want to cut the bureaucracy and the administrative burden,” she wrote. “My reflection is that being in control consumes a lot of resources, and that people sense how much resource could be freed up if TEC invested less in governance and administration.”
While Delano reported finding few comments from people with an “obvious ax to grind,” the Rev. Marianne Ell said her small group of task force members sensed “some real hatefulness, and passive-aggressiveness and taking a shot at things” in some of the answers to the let-go question.
George told the group that her experience with the task force has caused her to come to “a very different framing of the problem” facing the church. She came onto the task force, she said, believing that the church’s process was “way too big – expensive, big, unwieldy – and that as forcing our ‘product,’ our mission to be way too small.”
In fact, she said, very little money overall is spent on governance and administration and “actually all the mission is being done elsewhere.”
“So, what I see is that we have a small process and we’re cranking out too little product with it because we’re not engaging and empowering the whole church,” she said. “So, our job is not about ‘let’s cut down process;’ it’s ‘let’s re-imagine the process to make bigger product.’”
Diocese of El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves said the church’s “greatest asset” is the people in the pews “and what we’ve done is we’ve said the creative asset should run through this thing called the CCABs [the church’s committees, commissions, agencies and boards] and that’s the lie that’s perpetuated in this hierarchal system.”
George agreed, saying “the point is it’s not about cutting down our bureaucracy, it’s about rethinking it so that it naturally has a very different role; that’s the radical shift that I think we need to make.”
The rest of the meeting’s agenda
The group met privately during the afternoon of Dec. 6 and was scheduled to begin discussing possible proposals and to hear from a subcommittee on the constitutional and canonical implications of any of those proposals. TREC’s half-day session on Dec. 7 will be open. During that session, George said, the group will decide its next steps, including how to begin to draft its report to the church. The task force expects to issue a statement to the church about this meeting early in the week of Dec. 8, Loya told Episcopal News Service.
TREC’s Facebook page is here and it is here on Twitter with @ReimagineTEC, where the group is using #reimaginetec. The task force tweeted periodically throughout the morning of Dec. 6, summarizing what the members were working on.
ENS coverage of the initial work of TREC is here.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
“It was an extremely difficult decision, but we consider it necessary for the present well-being and future of our diocese,” the statement said.
“Together we should open a space for reflection and discussion for the strengthening of our diocese. Together we can heal the wounds this process has generated between our brothers and sisters.
“We should remember that it’s not in our time, it should be in the time of God, under his eternal guidance and direction.”
An Election Assembly previously was scheduled to elect at bishop to succeed the Rt. Rev. David Alvarez who has reached retirement age on Sept. 7, but that election was postponed. On Sept. 4, the Standing Committee issued a statement rescheduling the election for Dec. 7.
In addition the statement says that the Standing Committee has asked the Rt. Rev. Wilfrido Ramos-Orench to serve as provisional bishop. Ramos-Orench, who served as bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Connecticut from 2000-06, previously served as a provisional bishop in the Diocese of Central Ecuador. He also serves as the Episcopal Church’s global partnerships officer for Province 9.
Santa Maria, 06 de dezembro de 2013
“Bem-aventurados os pacificadores, pois serão chamados filhos de Deus” . Mateus 5.9
Aos nossos irmãos e irmãs sul-africanos estendo meus sentimentos pelo passamento de um grande líder. Nelson Mandela foi capaz de reunir duas características raramente conciliáveis: a coragem e a ternura.
Sua trajetória foi capaz de suportar a repressão de um injusto regime e transitar de forma íntegra da prisão à liberdade e vencer pelo exemplo. Quando a vitória o levou a dirigir o seu povo nunca usou o poder para vingar-se dos seus opressores. O processo de ampla reconciliação nacional revelou a sua profunda leitura espiritual da vida.
Que seu exemplo sirva para os líderes de nosso mundo. Aos anglicanos da África e ao povo estendo as minhas orações para que o consolo de Deus seja com todos. Descanse em paz Mandiba! Que seu exemplo nos inspire!
++ Bispo Francisco de Assis da Silva
Primaz da Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development is proud to announce that it has received a $1 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to expand its Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in Zambia.
The organization had previously been awarded a $350,000 grant from the foundation to launch the program in three geographic provinces, in order to develop an integrated ECD program strategy for families affected by HIV/AIDS in rural areas. The current grant will enable Episcopal Relief & Development and its local partner, the Zambia Anglican Council (ZAC), to broaden the program’s reach and serve an estimated 12,500 children under six.
“It is a tremendous vote of confidence to receive this grant from the Hilton Foundation,” said Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. “Following on a successful two-year project period, we will be able to strengthen the program over the next three years and work through the Zambian Church to introduce our proven approach in new communities. I am grateful to all of my colleagues who worked so hard to secure this grant, particularly Dawn Murdock, our resource mobilization manager, and Richard Hoff, our major gifts officer for the Midwest and Western regions.”
Episcopal Relief & Development is one of the grantees in the Hilton Foundation’s Children Affected by HIV and AIDS Initiative. The program is aimed at holistically addressing the needs of families affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly vulnerable young children and their caregivers. Episcopal Relief & Development’s goal is to build community and caregiver capacity to create a safe, stable environment in which children can thrive and reach their full developmental potential.
In Zambia, ZAC’s integrated rural program is based in churches and schools serving as Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centers. The ECD program leverages the assets of the Zambian Anglican Church nationally and locally, focusing on young children’s cognitive, psychosocial and physical development.
Trained ECD volunteers facilitate support and learning groups for caregivers and playgroups for children, make monthly home visits and provide referrals to needed services.
Program activities support families in three additional areas:
- Health: water, sanitation and hygiene education, growth monitoring and malaria prevention and control through Episcopal Relief & Development’s award-winning NetsforLife® program partnership;
- Nutrition and Food Supply: feeding practices for infants and young children, vegetable gardening and sustainable agriculture;
- Livelihood Strengthening: business training, formation of savings and loan groups.
“The ECD program addresses a serious need in the community, namely for young children impacted by HIV/AIDS to receive care that supports their healthy development,” said Grace Mazala Phiri, ZAC’s national program director. “But rather than having care take place in orphanages it is much better and more sustainable for us to work on strengthening families and enabling caregivers to provide this support. Furthermore, you cannot address only one area of need – if a child is hungry it may be because their caregiver is too sick to work or does not have skills to earn sufficient income, so you have to work on everything at once. It is not quick or easy, but it is the best way to help our communities.”
Over the next three years, with support from the most recent Hilton Foundation grant, the ECD program will build on its success to expand to other rural areas of Zambia. This funding will also help strengthen program quality through measures such as adding a preschool curriculum for children between the ages of three and five. Preliminary results have shown that the ECD program can be a catalyst for other community organizing efforts in marginalized areas, creating momentum for lasting change that fights poverty, hunger and disease. The program may also serve as a model for faith-based organizations working with families in rural, high HIV prevalence areas in other African countries.
“The family-centered approach of this program has the potential for significant, long-term impact, particularly for children affected by HIV/AIDS,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s senior vice president for programs. “Strong families are essential for nurturing a child’s potential, and our partnership with the Hilton Foundation has made it uniquely possible for us to build up those faith-based networks that sustain families during challenging times.”
[Episcopal News Service] Ocean City, Maryland, investigators say they believe a local man bought gasoline, poured it on himself and set himself on fire before he ran into St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church Nov. 26, begging for help.
The man, John Raymond Sterner, 56, died on the scene and the church’s rector, the Rev. David Dingwall, died from smoke inhalation in the ensuing fire in the church’s old rectory building.
A female victim, whose name is not being released, was injured while attempting to leave the building during the fire, investigators said. She was treated by paramedics at the scene and ultimately transported to John’s Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where she is still being treated. Ocean City investigators said her current condition is unknown.
The fire began when Sterner, with his clothes on fire, entered the church’s Shepherd’s Crook ministry offices, located in the 1923 rectory building that is part of the church’s property. Shepherd’s Crook provides food and clothing Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings and on Nov. 26 volunteers were preparing for the pre-Thanksgiving food distribution.
Dingwall, who would have turned 51 on Dec. 26, was in his office on the second floor when the fire broke out. Fire Department personnel found him there unconscious as they conducted a “primary search” of the second floor of the building. The release said firefighters “experienced heavy smoke and heat conditions” during the search. Dingwall was treated on-scene by paramedics and transported to Atlantic General Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland ruled that Dingwall’s death was a homicide caused by smoke inhalation, the release said, and that Sterner’s was “suicide by way of thermal burns and smoke inhalation.”
The rector’s funeral was held Dec. 3 at nearby St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The church had also hosted a prayer service the day after the fire for the members of St. Paul’s and the Ocean City community. A television station’s coverage of the fire and the prayer service is here.
The Baltimore Sun reported that the Rev. Heather E. Cook, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Easton, said Dingwall might have died while trying to save church records on a laptop from his office. Dingwall had been rector of the church for eight years.
The Sun also reported that court records show that Sterner had a lengthy arrest record in Ocean City for charges that included misdemeanor assault, alcohol violations and marijuana possession, though many of the charges were dropped. The last address listed for him in court records was an Ocean City trailer park; other court documents indicated that he was homeless. It was unclear whether Sterner was a food bank client, the paper said.
“Our community has experienced unimaginable tragedy,” Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said in the release. “Our community, as a whole, mourns the loss of Father David. All of our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this very sad time. He will be forever remembered for making Ocean City a better place.”
The building where the fire occurred also houses the Red Doors Community Center, a St. Paul’s ministry. Four days after the fire an official of that group said in an e-mail update that “Father David embodied the spirit of loving service, and we feel confident that he would want us to move forward with the work of St. Paul’s By-the-Sea in all of the church’s capacities, despite the temporary loss of our facilities.”
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] The words coming from the mouths of the five actors can be difficult to hear. It’s not the profanity, of which there isn’t much; it’s the descriptions of neglect, abuse, abandonment, addiction and loss experienced by 12 incarcerated women that weigh heavily on listeners.
It’s words like those used by a woman reflecting on her sister’s suicide: the bloodied wall; the couch left curbside for trash pickup. All that’s left of a life.
Or those of the mother who upon exiting a sweat-soaked bed needs to lock herself in the bathroom and find an uncollapsed vein to inject meth into before she can tend to the children hungry for breakfast and desperate for her attention.
They are the words of women who, twice a week for four months, worked with storytellers, poets, songwriters and artists to tap into dark crevices, to access the parts of themselves and their childhood memories that house the pain and suffering both endured and committed, and put it all on paper.
In mid-November, the actors read the women’s words for some 230 people gathered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was the third time the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project staged a performance of “Stories from the Inside Out” at St. Paul’s, which adopted the project in 2012. The day before, on Nov. 14, the actors staged a reading for the 12 women who participated in the project’s third round and for their fellow inmates inside the community correction center.
Kathy McGregor, the project’s director, brought the storytelling project to Fayetteville in 2011 from Memphis, Tennessee, where a fellow nurse and storyteller, Elaine Blanchard, started a prison storytelling project in Shelby County.
“There’s power in story and a particular power in learning to tell your own story and having it told back to you,” McGregor said.
Over the four-month period in preparing a show, themes begin to develop out of life-mapping exercises, poetry-writing prompts, songs and other readings. The women’s writing is then edited down to performance length.
Mothers and children were discussed a lot, and the women wanted to go deeper, exploring their own and other’s stories, said writing director Katie Nichol. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arkansas, came to the storytelling project in July 2012 as a visiting artist and stayed.
“Sometimes it can be really hard when you hear stories full of pain,” said Nichol. “And then you can bring in a poem and watch them go from not understanding analyzing it on a college level.”
An ‘inside’ performance
The Northwest Arkansas Community Correction Center housing the participants resembles a convalescent home, the low-rise building sitting at the intersection of Spring Street and College Avenue in downtown Fayetteville, a college town. The 100 women living there, 97 percent of them white, all are serving time after being convicted of nonviolent crimes. Most, if not all, have one thing in common: emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or a combination of abuses and neglect.
“They come up real hard,” said McGregor. “Every city has a way of coming up hard, but Arkansas has rural hard.”
Before the center performance began, the actors ran through their lines in a small room off the side of the multipurpose room where the inmates later gathered. The 12 woman whose stories were being told practiced the song “Broken” with musician Shannon Wurst.
“I’m stronger than I thought I was,” said “Zaria Ezra” (each of the women receives a “stage name” for confidentiality), 25, serving her ninth month on a probation violation related to previous drug charges. “I’ve gone through a lot.”
The child of divorced parents, Zaria Ezra said she had survived abandonment, a 19-year-old boyfriend’s deadly drug overdose and a self-sabotaging approach to relationships with men after his death. “I’d get rid of them before they’d get rid of me,” she said during an interview in the practice room.
Zaria Ezra hopes to transition out of the center before Christmas. She plans to return to her family in Bentonville, the headquarters of Walmart, begin rebuilding relationships and work as a cosmetologist while undergoing chemotherapy to treat the Hepatitis C she contracted through intravenous drug use.
The prison stories project, she said, helped her free herself from the “mental bondage” associated with hiding herself from others.
“I’m not hiding now, I’m telling everyone my story,” she said. “It’s helped me be more confident in myself. I don’t have to hide.”
Before the performance, the inmates, all wearing yellow prison scrubs, entered single file, wrists crossed at the small of their backs, walking into the light-gray, low-ceiling cinderblock room in the correction center’s basement. They talked while Sugarland’s “Settlin’” played in the background: “I ain’t settling for anything less than everything.” When the chairs ran out, the women crossed the hall, bringing back enough chairs to add three more rows.
Then came the count – one, two, three, four – each woman sitting down after counting off, until the last woman called out, “92.” Then two more women scrambled in. A man radioed in the final count. Six women would miss the performance; some were on work duties, and others may have been sick, said Gary Tabor, the assistant warden.
Throughout the performance, one could see the influence of poetry, from “all I know fits into a 100cc syringe” to Carol Ann Davis’s poem “All You Know” to “Town of my Return” by Allison Seay.
The 12 storytellers sat together during the reading. Sniffles from the storytellers, their fellow inmates, the correction center’s staff and guests, kept pace with the musical score. When it was over, the 94 women exited the room the same way they came in, single file, writs crossed at the small of their backs.
Tabor praised the storytelling project for its positive impact on participants.
In evaluation forms after the Nov. 14 program, some of the participants confirmed his assessment.
“It helped me realize I’m a survivor,” said one woman.
“It helped me get out some resentments that I have been harboring for years,” said another. “Writing is a great coping skill.”
She would recommend the project to others, she continued, “because it will ask them to cope with the harsh realities that drove them to drugs and other addictions in the first place. So that maybe they will stay away from that lifestyle.”
The story project fits with Warden Maggie Capel’s philosophy for the community correction center, which, unlike a tougher prison, focuses on making a difference in the inmates’ lives and helping them transition back into society.
“They are all quite moved by it,” said Capel, of the inside reading. “It’s very eye-opening to them to hear their story told by a third party.”
It also can be eye-opening for “outside” listeners.
The play bill distributed the following evening at St. Paul’s explained the event’s intent: Everyone has a story, and when people are given the opportunity to listen to the stories of others, we become less likely to dehumanize one another with stereotypes.
This show was not as brutal as the last two; it’s more nuanced, said Erika Wilhite, the project’s theater director.
“It’s maybe one of the best ones yet,” she said. “The biggest job is not to allow melodrama; if it’s too graphic, the audience will draw back.”
The St. Paul’s performance had two objectives, McGregor said: to help people realize that under different circumstances the women’s stories could be their own and to show them that the journey that culminates in prison didn’t happen in a vacuum and that there are consequences to abuse. Click here to view the full performance, intended for mature audiences, at St. Paul’s.
In the 1950s, when family was sacred and McGregor was growing up in Auburn, Alabama, abuse wasn’t discussed, she said. Today, it’s discussed but still happens.
But the affected women don’t see themselves as victims, nor do they necessarily immediately see the connection between their childhood abuse and the decisions they made that led to their incarceration, McGregor said.
In some ways, she said, the storytelling project is an “exploration” – “What did happen differently for me?”
The November performances also provided an opportunity for reflection for actor Laura Shatkus, a Chicago native working on a master’s degree at the University of Arkansas. Looking at her childhood in comparison to the women’s, “had I made different decisions, or had different parents,” she said, their stories could have been hers.
Transitioning from incarceration
Working successively with three groups of inmates, McGregor and other volunteers involved in the project have identified a need beyond the storytelling.
“We’ve fallen in love three times with 36 women, we become so close,” said McGregor. “Some of the women have come from very abusive situations and have nowhere to go but back to the abusive situation. We’ve lost some to meth and alcohol addiction.”
So the next step in St. Paul’s prison ministry is to provide a transitional home where the women can live upon release from prison while they put their lives back together.
To stress the need for a transitional home, McGregor shared the story of a former story project participant, a gifted songwriter, who succumbed to her addictions.
In vivid, dry detail, the woman, who grew up without electricity and running water, recalled how it felt when her mother grabbed her hair with such force that her scalp separated from her skull; how hard it was to run and keep up with her siblings while wearing two left shoes; and the years of sexual abuse she endured by an older brother, until the day she cried and he stopped.
The woman, in her 20s and with three children of her own, was paroled and returned to that same family environment and eventually returned to her drug addiction, McGregor told ENS during a sit-down interview at a coffee shop in Fayetteville.
“That is why I want a halfway house,” said McGregor.
It’s a subject that hits close to home.
“I don’t know why I didn’t end up in prison,” said McGregor, a longtime storyteller, parish nurse and union organizer who now works as a hospice nurse at a nearby Veterans Administration Hospital. “I survived terrible abuse.”
McGregor’s mother and stepfather both were abusive, while her biological father was absent, she said. It was through therapy that she “dug deep” into her own childhood, later becoming angry with her father and not speaking with him for a few years.
“Where is the space to process when you come back to the same situation?” she asked.
St. Paul’s has included seed money for the transitional home in its 2014 stewardship campaign. In October, McGregor, Nichol and the Rev. Suzanne Stoner, a priest associate at St. Paul’s, attended the first national Thistle Farms Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, to network with others who work with similar populations of women and to learn how to operate a home.
“This is not a transitional house, this is a moment in a movement,” said Stoner, who is a regular celebrant, along with the Rev. Lowell Grisham, with St. Paul’s rector, during a weekly Eucharist inside the correction center.
The congregation’s response to the story project has been positive, said Grisham, though he said he’d been underwhelmed with its attendance at the performances.
“There’s reluctance and intimidation when we are faced with something profound and terrible,” he said.
To which Stoner added, “You have to be willing to have your eyes opened.”
For parishioner Debbie Griffin, a licensed professional counselor who works at an alternative high school, the stories of the women are the stories of the teenagers she serves, many of whom are parents themselves.
Part of her work, she said, is “undoing the damage and breaking the pattern that has been perpetrated on them by their family and circumstances.
“It’s hard to overcome that,” she said. “They are victims of something bigger than themselves … abuse being the common thread.”
“Essence,” 28, another storyteller, suffered physical and mental abuse at the hands of her mother, single and an alcoholic, and grew up in foster care. Taking part in the storytelling project helped her overcome a lot of issues, she said.
“By sharing it and writing it down, I don’t have to live it anymore,” she said. “Every choice I made was based on my childhood.”
A parole revocation brought Essence to the corrections center. She said she expected to be released in March, when she planned to reunite with her children, a 5-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter, who currently live with her mother, who’s still drinking “but not as much,” in Mississippi. Essence will bring the children back to Arkansas.
“It felt good, like an accomplishment,” said Essence following the inside reading. “I have the motivation to do what I’ve got to do now.”
– Lynette Wilson is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal News Service] Actors performed Stories from the Inside Out on Nov. 15 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The 35-minute performance contains some profanity and sensitive material and is intended for mature audiences only. Twice a year, over a four-month period, artists work with the women and compile their words, describing the abuse and the traumas they’ve endured in their lives, into a performance, delivered both inside the correction center and also outside at St. Paul’s, which adopted the Northwest Arkansas Prison Story Project as a ministry in 2012.
Read the full story here.
[Anglican Taonga] Last week’s meeting of the Anglican Indigenous Network in Christchurch could be remembered as a gamechanger.
The time when the AIN changed from being a fringe outfit given to telling itself tales of woe and issuing high-minded resolutions to no discernible effect, to becoming a body which is a serious and effective advocate for indigenous Anglicans at the highest levels within the Communion.
Prepared, if necessary, to make its case before outside bodies like the United Nations.
That’s how Robert Kereopa views the Christchurch meeting, anyhow.
Robert, who is the Executive Officer for the Anglican Missions Board, convened the Aotearoa delegation to the Christchurch hui.
He’s been to five AIN meetings now. And at each previous one, he’d watched the AIN issue grand statements – which, in the end, achieved diddly-squat.
Here’s an example: two years ago, the AIN passed a resolution in support of Australian Aboriginal Anglicans long-held desire for a National Aboriginal Bishop.
That resolution went to the Australian General Synod – and it disappeared into a black hole.
No acknowledgement. No response. No nothing.
And no point, says Robert, in repeating the same performance.
Discovering God’s hidden treasure
The topic of a National Indigenous Bishop for Australia came up again at the Christchurch hui – it’s a hardy annual – but rather than pass yet another stirring resolution, the delegates at this AIN meeting did something about that kaupapa.
The six-strong Canadian delegation – which included three indigenous bishops – got alongside the Aboriginal delegation, and together they’ve struck up a formal “treaty”.
With the express purpose, in the first instance, of helping the Aboriginals reach their goal.
The thinking goes like this: The First Nations Anglicans of Canada are well along the way to self-determination.
They now have their own National Indigenous Bishop (Mark McDonald, who was at the Christchurch meeting).
Two indigenous dioceses have also now been recognised in Canada (Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Diocese of Keewatin, and Bishop Adam Halkett of the Diocese of Saskatchewan were also in Christchurch) – and a further six such indigenous dioceses are in the pipeline.
And because the Canadians are still working through these changes, says Robert, they’re seen as the group that can best help the Aboriginal people achieve their goals.
“You think about Australia…. If the Canadians turned up there in force, and stood side-by-side with the Aboriginals, and talked about their own journey with their own people in Canada to the Australians – that would make quite an impact, don’t you think?”
Robert sees that partnership between the Canadians and the Aboriginals as the outworking of a mission principle:
“The principle is this – that God has what we need to achieve what God wants us to achieve .
“Possibly very close to us. So rather than asking for a pot of gold, we need to realise that somewhere in the Communion there could be someone with the gifts that we need to achieve what we need to achieve.”
Ahi kaa – keeping the home fires burning
Robert sees significance too, in the two resolutions that this AIN did pass.
There was the one (detailed here) which saw the AIN set up an Executive Committee which should ensure that the AIN doesn’t drop the ball between its two-yearly forums.
The Secretary General of that new Executive Committee is Bishop John Gray, te Pihopa o Te Wai Pounamu.
Robert sees John Gray’s election as important on two counts:
For a start, because he’s a bishop. The AIN hasn’t had a bishop as Secretary General before. And a bishop not only has clout, but also has the ability to network in the right circles.
Then, there’s the fact that we’re not talking about just any bishop.
We’re talking about Bishop John Gray.
He’s long been at the forefront of moves to get a fairer resource-sharing deal for Tikanga Maori in this church.
And he’s clearly got energy for his new international task, too. He’s already announced that he’ll be at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.
There’s talk too, says Robert, about holding the next AIN meeting in New York, so that it coincides with the next round of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Rights.
“If the minority indigenous people in the AIN were to go along to the UN and say: ‘Hey. Our national churches can’t get their act together. Can you help us, UN?’ That’d be a little embarrassing for the national churches.
“But if necessary, I think that’s the sort of thing that Bishop John would be prepared to do.”
Bishop John’s election, though, is just one leg of the Executive Committee double.
The fact that Charles Hemana, the secretary of Te Pihopatanga, will be serving as the administrator for the AIN for the next two years is also critical, says Robert.
“By having someone who will front, and someone who will do the legwork… I think that’s important. We could never do this properly without having the administrator there.”
One of the main things the AIN executive committee intends to do is simply stay on the case.
It will finalise a charter, for instance, that nails down the AIN’s purpose and reasons for being.
It will meet regularly (almost certainly in virtual reality) – and it intends to set up a series of indigenous forums: on indigenous theology, for example, on indigenous education, on indigenous youth ministry and ministry to indigenous elders.
The power of stories
In fact, the other resolution that this AIN passed spelt out that the first of those forums will be about story-telling.
In the past, says Robert, the AIN members were telling their stories, sure enough – but those stories never made it outside the tent.
Well, this AIN resolved to tell their stories to a wider audience – to their provinces, to the Communion at large, to the world.
“If we’re able to tell our stories beyond ourselves,” says Robert, “that establishes a research base. A base on which we can reflect and from which we can work out the way forward. What we will see too, is that we are not alone.”
There’s a time-specific goal, here, too.
The AIN wants a collection of these stories published – whether online, or in print – by the time of the next AIN meeting, which is two-year’s hence.
There was one final, intangible, aspect to this Christchurch AIN gathering.
It’s a quality that the AIN will have to draw on, no doubt, in the years ahead.
Robert named that quality during his poroporoaki (farewell) korero – and as he spoke, you could see heads gently nodding their approval, and tears being dabbed from cheeks:
“At all levels,” said Robert, “in our caucuses, around the table during plenary sessions – hearts were engaging.”
And that heart-to-heart engagement, you’d have to think, is as good a place as you could find for a new beginning.
[Anglican Journal] General Synod’s Marks of Mission team is offering grants of $1,000 to every diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada as seed money for projects that implement any of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission.
Each diocese needs only to select a project and send a 100-word description of it to the team at the church’s national offices in Toronto in order to receive a Diocesan Champion Project grant.
“It could be artistic, it could be practical, it could be giving to the community. The Marks of Mission are pretty broad,” said Anglican Video senior producer Lisa Barry, who has also worked with the team on projects such as the “Amazing Grace” video project that raised funds for the Council of the North.
Canadian Anglicans are living out the Marks of Missions in a myriad of creative ways, said Barry. The Champion project is intended not only to support those efforts financially but to help share their stories with other Anglicans across the country.
Descriptions of the projects will be posted on the national church’s website. “We’re hoping that it seeds the imagination and inspires others to also do projects,” Barry said.
[Church of England] Young people are being given a taste of life behind the dog collar with the launch of the Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES), run by the Ministry Division.
The scheme, which began with a pilot phase (see case studies below) this September in four dioceses, is a one-year program of theological teaching, practical experience and personal development for young people aged 18-30 who are considering future ministry in the church. The scheme was set up to encourage more young people to consider being involved in ministry and focus on the nine criteria used in the selection of clergy.
The scheme is currently being run in the dioceses of Sodor and Man, Newcastle, Peterborough and the Stepney area of London. Ministry Division are working with 15 more dioceses interested in the scheme, with a view to provide a CEMES programme in every diocese.
The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt. Rev. Steven Croft, who is chair of Ministry Division said: “The Church of England has a fresh vision and commitment to see people in their teens and twenties exploring God’s call to ministry. The Ministry Experience scheme will help many young people explore that call in the years to come”
The Rev. Canon Steve Benoy, diocesan director of ordinands in Peterborough, said: “The scheme is not rocket science. Similar schemes have existed in many organizations and churches. The gap in the market, however, has been for a program which intentionally connects with the processes and criteria for ordination in the Church of England. We are not trying to squeeze people into a dog collar if that is not their vocation. The CEMES genuinely offers a broad space for young people to explore their sense of calling in ministry.”
The Rev. Fiona Green, director of the intern program in Stepney, who is overseeing four young people involved in the program in London said: “It’s both about supporting mission and ministry but also testing the vocations of people who are thinking about ministry.
Applications for the 2014-15 academic year, which begins on Sept. 1, will be available in the spring.
The Church of England Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES) is a scheme that has been centrally developed by Ministry Division and can be run by Dioceses to promote ministry among young people.
The Church of England follows guidelines set out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development regarding voluntary schemes, the “Internship Charter”, and provides a quality assured program that is delivered in conjunction with local parishes, Dioceses and Ministry Division. CEMES adheres to the six principles of the CIPD ‘internship charter’ and seeks to provide young people with the relevant experience of ministry in order to provide the opportunity for proper discernment of an ordained calling. More details can be found under “Interns” here.
The scheme is free for participants and a subsistence allowance is provided, and training costs and cost of travel is met. Members of the scheme are additionally eligible for a centrally distributed grant from Ministry Division to support with the costs of participating in the program.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has welcomed the decision by the Bodleian and Vatican libraries to make available to the public digitized copies of ancient Bibles and Biblical texts. Speaking in a video to promote the launch of the project’s website, Welby said, “Where you can see these actual texts there’s a lifting of the spirit. “It inspires worship. By being able to have access to a digitized collection, this really opens the texts to a far wider range of scholars than have been able to get at them in the past and is of huge international significance as a resource.” He added he believed the practice of digitizing such texts would “indirectly have an impact on our liturgy of worship and practice of faith.” Europe’s first printed book, Gutenberg’s 1455 Bible, is among texts accessible on a in the project run by Oxford and The Vatican City. New technology has enabled zoomable high-resolution images of the early manuscripts and books for research. The £2m project will digitize 1.5m pages over the next three years.
[Episcopal News Service – Pine Mountain, Kentucky] Being able to read well is a basic skill that not every young student masters. That lack of mastery can lead to a lifetime of low achievement – and poverty.
That is the basic premise of Reading Camp, an 11-year-old ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. In addition to breaking the cycle of poverty by helping young children avoid a lifetime of illiteracy, the camps also aim to build self-confidence and teach campers about their local heritage. Thus, campers get a jump-start on being contributing members of their families and their communities.
The Reading Camp ministry helps run camps all over the world and close to home. Each week-long camp, some of them sleep-away and some day camps, is built on a combination of interdisciplinary learning – sometimes masqueraded as play – and activities such as hikes, games and crafts. Staff members are all volunteers and serve in roles such as teachers, counselors, nurses and administrators. Some volunteers come back year after year.
On Dec. 3, the Episcopal Church announced that the program had received $20,000 to further its work. The grant was one of nine Roanridge Trust Award Grants made for 2014.
Recently, Episcopal News Service spent time at the annual Reading Camp held in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. The school itself, founded in 1913 as boarding school for mountain children and as a settlement serving the community through economic, health and cultural initiatives, has for the last 30 years provided instruction in environmental education and traditional arts and culture to thousands of students.
Alpha Sigma Tau sorority has supported the work of the Pine Mountain Settlement School since 1945 through financial donations as well as volunteer work. During this year’s Reading Camp, sorority collegiate and alumnae members were part of the volunteer staff, some of them for the first time.
The 2013 Pine Mountain Reading Camp week was the last for then-Executive Director Allison Duvall before she joined the staff of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) as program manager for co-sponsorship and church relations. Michelle Sjogren of Lexington was recently called to be the new executive director of Reading Camp.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.
[Anglican Journal] An American priest who describes herself as a “Canadian enthusiast” has been elected the first woman bishop in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster and the first woman diocesan bishop in the ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and the Yukon.
The Rev. Canon Melissa M. Skelton, canon for congregational development and leadership and rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, in the Diocese of Olympia, was elected by a special synod on Nov. 30, in Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver. She succeeds Bishop Michael Ingham, who retired last August.
“Stunned,” “humbled” and “exhilarated” were her immediate reactions when she was elected on the third ballot after receiving a substantial majority of votes from the houses of clergy and lay, Bishop-elect Skelton told the Anglican Journal in a telephone interview.
Bishop-elect Skelton is no stranger to the Vancouver-based diocese, having conducted comprehensive trainings in congregational development and leadership for its clergy and laity since 2011.
It was a relationship that thrived and continued over the years — in 2012, she designed and facilitated New Westminster’s synod, a pivotal time for the diocese that had undergone a traumatic division over same-sex blessings that led all the way to the courts.
“I experienced both an interest in and a willingness to engage in a listening process that, from my perspective, was a first step towards the restoration of a sense of unity in New Westminster,” she said in her nomination statement. “This willingness spoke to me, in that these very same listening processes would be a cornerstone of my approach in the creation of unity that is part of the role of bishop.”
She has been nominated in two other episcopal elections before, one of which she withdrew from, saying she was not convinced it was the right one for her. Early this year, she came in second in the Diocese of New Jersey elections. That election “really helped me understand that they were not ready for me, put it that way. It was also good to discover that it wasn’t the right diocese for me,” she said.
With the Diocese of New Westminster, however, there was a sense of peace. What feels right about it? “So many things,” she says, in her deep, measured voice. “My experience in the diocesan school for leadership and the kind of chemistry with the people and participants – that was very telling to me,” she said. Another big factor was her connection to Bishop Ingham. She first met him in 1994, when he was a newly minted bishop and she was running the training for new bishops at The General Theological Seminary (GTS), an Episcopal Church seminary based in New York City.
And then there’s the matter of geography. Skelton has found an affinity with the west that has been “profound, very freeing and very compelling.” Nine years ago she moved from a small coastal parish in Maine to the diocese of Olympia, also known as the Episcopal Church in Western Washington. Initially she was “perplexed” by the transition. The west had “a different character, a different style of spirituality,” and the sun and the water appeared on a different side.
But when she was nominated in the two U.S. episcopal elections, both of them in the northeast, Skelton said she realized that as much as she loved living in the east, it no longer felt like home.
New Westminster has a “common spirit” with the dioceses of Olympia, Oregon and Spokane, and it “really feels like a wonderful match for who I am now,” she said. When she became a nominee to its election and responded to questions sent by the search and nominations committee, Skelton said, “The more I answered, the more I felt connected.”
Coming into a highly visible diocese in Canada will not be a daunting prospect for Skelton, who was vice-president for administration at the General Theological Seminary when it was going through “a difficult time around slightly different issues.” In late 1993, the GTS had to reconsider its housing policy after a complaint was filed with the NY City Commission on Human Rights alleging discrimination on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation.
“I learned what it was like to simply do the work you’re given to do in many ways. For me, it feels like being faithful in highly visible situations, keeping focused on the call of God,” she said.
Congregational development and relationship building will be one of her key priorities as new bishop, said Skelton. She is eager to start building relationships “with this new group of people who have been so very enthusiastic and kind to elect me — a woman, a Canadian enthusiast and American-born person who deeply cares about their parishes,” she said.
She is also most excited about the cultural diversity of Vancouver. “It’s an amazing place,” she said, adding she has a deep desire to find out how the church engages the diversity of these cultures.
Born in Columbus, Georgia, to a military family of four children, Skelton had lived mostly in southeastern America and in Germany.
Skelton became an Episcopalian in her twenties “from no real church background,” she said in her nomination statement.
After she received a Master of Divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary, she became a priest in 1993, while she worked as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble.
She later moved to GTS where, aside from overseeing the seminary’s operations, she taught courses in Christian Education and oversaw the College for Bishops.
Skelton, who also has a master of English and a master of business administration, later left GTS to become vice-president of consumer and brand development, communications and advertising of Tom’s of Maine, which sells “natural toothpaste, deodorant, soap and more.”
After leaving Tom’s, she became rector of Trinity Church in Castine, Maine, and started her own consulting business, which focused on “in-depth consumer work” and organizational and congregational development. In 2005, she became rector of St. Paul’s, in the Diocese of Olympia.
According to the Diocese of Olympia website, she has an adult son, Evan, who lives with his wife, Emily, and their two sons, Austin and Evan, in Washington, D.C.
[Anglican Church of Canada] About 130 young people gathered in a heavily fortified bank vault in the depths of the “Diefenbunker” near Carp, Ontario, on Nov. 17, 2013. They were there for a Eucharist and sermon comparing the pacifism of Christ and the “redemptive violence” of the bestselling novel and movie The Hunger Games.
The once-secret underground bunker near Carp was built more than 50 years ago to protect the Canadian government from nuclear attack.
“The Hunger Games is a book about juxtaposition,” said the Rev. Monique Stone, organizer of the service and incumbent of the Anglican Parish of Huntley, in her sermon. “It’s a book in which we see a community in dire poverty pushed up against a community of privilege¬ — in which we hear about a community that is starving, and [another] that has so much excess that at times they actually want to make themselves sick so they can fit in more food.”
The story of Christ is also a story of contrast, said Stone. “Jesus is God incarnated into a world where some of those same principles exist, the principle of have and have not, the principle of the poor not being as good as the rich, the principle of many going hungry while many are fed.”
“Christians… are here to notice it, and here to do something about it. We’re called to go out into the world and make a difference.”
“It made sense to me that there be an offering for some food justice-related ministry,” said Stone. “It seemed like a natural fit.” Participants also received a Fred Says package after the service.
The Very Rev. Shane Parker, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, was the main celebrant at the Eucharist, which brought to a close a seven-week course on the spirituality of The Hunger Games.
Stone doesn’t plan on doing the popular service again, but would be happy to see others run the service in their own parishes.
“The Hunger Games story is very relevant. There was more stuff to discuss than we could cover in the weeks of our study leading up to this Eucharist. If anyone wanted to do this service themselves, I’d be more than happy to share the liturgy.”
[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) Synod has voted against the ordination of women following a heated debate on a motion seeking to allow individual dioceses ready to ordain women within the Province to go ahead.
The vote, which was carried out by the three Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity was only successful in the House of Laity where 14 delegates voted in favour of the motion as opposed to 10 that voted against.
Bishop Chad from the Diocese of Harare proposed that “Synod resolves that women be allowed into ordained ministry”.
“This matter has been discussed over the years at both Provincial and Diocesan levels,” said Bishop Chad. “There are women who have even decided to go to other countries to train and be ordained. [Therefore] we appeal to this Synod to allow those dioceses that are ready to go ahead.”
But Bishop of Northern Malawi, the Rt Revd Fanuel Magangani argued, “One person ordained in one diocese may get rejected in another thereby compromising the collegiality of the Province.” He added, “The ordination of women is not biblically backed and has also not proved to help the Church since inception in the 70s.”
However, during the debate session Provincial Youth Co-ordinator for CPCA, Fr Robert Sihubwa reminded the house that the Church of the Province of Central Africa is informed by tradition, scripture and reason and that the issue of women ordination should be addressed using reason.
“Women are the biggest evangelists in the Province,” he pointed out. “Women are a big resource to CPCA. When we talk about unity in the Province, it should be considered in terms of unity in diversity.”
A lay member from Harare, Patrick Mahari wondered why mothers and women in general are being discarded today despite having been the “first point of contact for the word of God for most the delegates present.”
“There is a lack of love for women in this room,” complained Doreen Nteta from Botswana. “People don’t want change and this issue is not about whether women are ready or not because in Botswana, we have been ready since the ’80s.”
“Women’s ministry is by far the biggest and not ordaining women would kill the Church in Botswana with only 11 priest priests having to cover the breadth and width of Botswana,” she said.
But despite the heavy debates and many passionate appeals from those dioceses that are ready to ordain women, the motion failed when it was subjected to a vote as required by the Synod Standing Orders.