Diocese of Iowa announces slate of candidates for 10th bishop

by dpaulsen |

[Diocese of Iowa] The Standing Committee of the Diocese of Iowa announced May 11 the slate of candidates for the 10th bishop of Iowa.

The candidates (listed in alphabetical order by last name) are:

  • The Rev. Jennifer Andrews-Weckerly, currently rector of Hickory Neck Episcopal Church, Toano Virginia, in the diocese of Southern Virginia.
  • The Rev. Betsey Monnot, currently priest-in-charge of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church and director and retreat leader, Called to Abundant Life: Leadership Consulting in the Diocese of Northern California.
  • The Rev. Elizabeth Duff Popplewell, currently rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Cedar Falls, in the Diocese of Iowa.

Information about the candidates, including narrative biographies and resumes, can be found here.

“Through a prayerful process of discernment, and creatively responding to challenges presented by the pandemic, the Bishop Search and Nominating Committee worked hard to bring forth a slate of bishop candidates that each would be a faithful and inspiring leader of the Diocese of Iowa,” said the Rev. Kathleen Milligan, acting president of the Standing Committee. “The Standing Committee is thrilled to announce a slate of three incredible women as candidates for the 10th bishop of Iowa. Each one is exceptionally qualified and uniquely gifted, and would be a blessing to our diocese.”

The Standing Committee has also announced the opening of the petition process, which allows additional nominees to be added to the slate within 10 days. The requirements for petition nominees can be found here. The final slate of candidates will be announced by the Standing Committee on June 15, 2021, after the close of the petition process on May 21, 2021, at 5 p.m. CDT.

Members of the diocese will have the opportunity to learn more about the candidates during a series of Meet and Greet events, which will be held in person and livestreamed July 12-16, 2021.

The election will be held in person and livestreamed on July 31 in Des Moines, Iowa, with the consecration to take place on Dec. 18. The bishop will be seated at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul the following day. The new bishop will succeed the Rt. Rev. Alan Scarfe, who was consecrated on April 5, 2003. He will retire on Dec. 18, 2021.

The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa includes almost 7,000 members in 58 congregations, including Trinity Cush Church, a congregation formed by South Sudanese immigrants that was admitted to the diocese in 2020 and a long-standing ministry of Native Americans at St. Paul’s Indian Mission in Sioux City, Iowa. The Diocese of Iowa hosts several specialized ministries, including The Way Station, the Beloved Community Initiative, the Agape Café. The Diocese of Iowa was founded in 1853, and its offices are located in Des Moines. The diocese covers the entire state of Iowa.

Localized ordination programs open doors to ministry for nontraditional clergy candidates

by lwilson |

The Rev. Yesenia Alejandro, the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Hispanic missioner and vicar of Philadelphia’s Church of the Crucifixion, addresses worshippers before a Tuesday food distribution. The church, which was shuttered before Alejandro took over, provides food to some 1,000 people weekly. Photo: Courtesy of Yesenia Alejandro

[Episcopal News Service] Six months after making history as the first Latina ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania the Rev. Yesenia Alejandro is now feeding an average of 1,000 people a week at a South Philadelphia church that until recently had been shuttered.

“When I got ordained a priest, the bishop said to me, ‘We’re going to appoint you as Hispanic missioner,’” Alejandro told Episcopal News Service recently. “Right after that, they told me about this church that was closed and said, ‘Go there and reopen it.’ I said OK.”

Alejandro, 49, a mother of four and grandmother, has worked for 25 years with the poor in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico — where she was born. She was ordained as a priest on Oct. 10, 2020, through a local formation program specifically designed for her and implemented by Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez. She now serves as both the diocese’s Hispanic missioner and vicar of Church of the Crucifixion in Philadelphia.

“Yesenia had this background, she was already working with the poor,” Gutiérrez said. “She has got the biggest heart and the greatest love for Jesus Christ. Why should there be this barrier [to ordained ministry], this wall that does not allow her to use that voice and to proclaim the good news?”

Increasingly, dioceses are turning to local programs and Anglican partners to train leaders who feel called to ordained ministry and for whom ordination might not otherwise be an option, whether that’s due to time or financial constraints or family commitments.

The Rev. Yesenia Alejandro, wearing the purple mask, was ordained a priest in October 2020 through a local ordination program in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. She is the diocese’s Hispanic missioner and vicar of the Church of the Crucifixion in Philadelphia. Photo: Courtesy of Yesenia Alejandro

“It can be used for anyone,” Gutiérrez said. “Who says there’s not people in the Diocese of West Virginia or Lexington that have the same obstacles? All you have to do is have the willingness and the heart. There’s something special about being ordained in the community, knowing its culture, knowing the language, but you know … heart speaks to heart, and what better way to be evangelists?”

Similarly, The Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s School for Formation, along with The Episcopal Church’s Office of Asiamerica Ministries and the Anglican Church in Myanmar, launched a program in March to train about 20 members of the Karen community as catechists, deacons and priests. “Some 30 congregations or groups of Karen immigrants and refugees have joined The Episcopal Church in the past five years,” according to the Rev. Fred Vergara, the church’s missioner for Asiamerica Ministries.

Cherry Say was 7 years old when her family fled their Myanmar home because of ethnic and religious persecution of the Karen people, the country’s second-largest ethnic minority. She spent the next 20 years in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand, where she taught Sunday school to youth and young adults.

Now a mother and grandmother, Say, 48, lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a priest. She serves as a lay Eucharistic visitor at Messiah Episcopal Church, where about one-half of the 350-member congregation are Karen and regard her as a pastor.

Cherry Say, standing near the door, serves as a lay Eucharistic visitor at Messiah Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, she’s on track to be ordained through the Episcopal Church in Minnesota’s School for Formation. Photo: Courtesy of Cherry Say

“When I came, they did not have a leader, a pastor” who spoke or understood the S’gaw Karen language, Say told ENS. “A lot of my people here did not understand this very well. They are very sad. They feel like they have to be baptized all over again.”

Localized ordination is a win-win, church leaders say, allowing individuals to answer the call to ordained ministry, sometimes in direct response to community needs and shifting demographics and at times in response to congregations that might not otherwise be able to call a priest.

There are places in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey “where I could put three or four congregations together and they’d still not be able to afford a full-time seminary-trained priest,” Bishop Chip Stokes told ENS.

Since his November 2013 consecration, Stokes has prioritized creating “entry points for growing ministry,” including expanding an existing diocesan School for Ministry. For Stokes, it is also a matter of simple math: “We have 138 congregations and 80 full-time priests. We were not attracting young people to ministry, in part because it [the ordination process] was burdensome.”

Such local programs “are nothing new,” according to Sandra Montes, who designed Alejandro’s three-year course of study. Adhering to Title III, Canon 8 requirements concerning the ordination of priests, local programs include an emphasis on preaching, theology, ethics, pastoral care, Scripture, church history, liturgy and music, Anglicanism, spirituality and ministry practice in contemporary society.

Contextualizing training “is so important for The Episcopal Church. The current system just isn’t built for everybody,” said Montes, dean of chapel for Union Theological Seminary and an educator, writer and speaker. For example, for many prospective clergy, leaving family or employment to attend a three-year residential seminary is not an option.

“Honestly, this way is more biblical,” Montes added. “Walking beside someone, tailoring the knowledge of Jesus with one person in mind, that’s how the disciples were formed.”

In the Diocese of Hawaii, the Rev. Ha’aheo Guanson, 69, deferred her dream of the priesthood while raising a family and establishing a university teaching career.

When the diocese created the Waiolaihui’ia, or Gathering of the Waters, local formation program in partnership with the Austin, Texas-based Seminary of the Southwest’s Iona Collaborative in 2013, Guanson’s dream revived. “I felt ordination was possible to achieve,” she said.

Guanson, ordained in 2019, now directs and teaches coursework in the Waiolaihui’ia certificate program, which includes online and in-person graduate-level studies that can be completed over three to 12 years.

“I have become very passionate about this type of program,” Guanson told ENS. “Here in Hawaii, we’ve always imported priests because we didn’t have our own. There were a few who could go away to residential seminary, but the cost and the time and the loss to the community was always an issue. Having the program right here, you help to raise deacons and priests from your community … reflecting the kind of diversity that reflects the people of God.”

That diversity also includes bivocational clergy for churches “now unable to call full-time priests,” ultimately strengthening the entire diocese because of the program’s potential to include training for the laity, she said.

Local formation is an important part of the church’s future, if the church aspires to expand its base, says the Rev. Nandra Perry, who is herself a bivocational priest, serving as assistant director of the Iona Collaborative and vicar of St. Philip’s Church in Hearne, a town of about 4,000 inhabitants located northeast of Austin.

“We simply need to have more tools in our toolkit for educating clergy if we want our clergy to reflect the diversity of the church itself,” said Perry, who graduated from the Diocese of Texas’ Iona School for Ministry. “People have all kinds of different situations. We want to be able to call people into ministry from all walks of life and be open to the gifts of all of the people who are drawn into this communion.”

Yet, local training should not — and she predicts will not — replace the traditional three-year residential seminary training. “It’s simply one of many possible ways we should be open to preparing people for ministry.”

The Iona Collaborative currently partners with 32 dioceses with about 200 students enrolled across the church each year. The Iona Collaborative is planning to provide teaching materials in Spanish in the near future, said the Rev. John Lewis, the collaborative’s director and lecturer in New Testament and spirituality. In partnership with the Diocese of Los Angeles, some of the Iona Collaborative instructional videos have been translated from English into Mandarin and Korean.

For Daphne Roberts, 63, a lifelong member of St. Augustine’s Church in Asbury Park, New Jersey, is working toward ordination as a permanent deacon. For Roberts and her fellow students at the New Jersey School for Ministry, graduation represents mastery not only coursework comprehension but also cultural competency.

For example, students are required to contextualize the way they would proclaim the Gospel for specific audiences, according to the Rev. Genevieve Bishop, who directs the program. “What is the message they’re giving to this particular audience? It is intended to allow them to really synthesize and pull together everything that they have learned and think about how to apply it in the world today.”

Congregations typically look for clergy who are a good fit for their culture, says the Rev. Susan Daughtry, missioner for formation for the Episcopal Church in Minnesota. With about 25 students, its School for Formation partners with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific’s Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership and Bexley Seabury Seminary, as well as specially designed programs such as the partnership with the church’s Office of Asiamerica Ministries and the Anglican Church Province of Myanmar.

Local formation follows an early church model from a time before residential seminaries existed, Daughtry said. “I will be so happy when nobody talks about this as ‘alternative’ training because it sounds like we have to make special accommodations. We are trying to create a space where the full diversity of the church is well and thriving.”

The approach also empowers congregations. “We’ve tried to allow congregations to be much more creative about their own ministry models, to see what God is doing and not be constantly burdened by financial challenges they can’t meet,” she said. “We are stepping into what it really means to believe in the ministry of all the baptized.”

For example, Daughtry said, “if a congregation has 30 people in it and can’t afford to pay a rector and has no other venue with which to get pastoral care, preaching, the congregation will die. They don’t have to die, but they could choose to embrace a different model of leadership that allows resources to flow in a different way.”

The Rev. Judy DesHarnais, who serves as a deacon at Messiah Church in St. Paul, recalled, “The Karen people reached out to us in 2007, asking about Anglican churches. Then they started coming. People say, ‘Isn’t this wonderful, you reached out to them?’ And I reply, ‘No, you got the direction wrong.’”

DesHarnais said the close-knit community — both locally and across the United States — have discerned Say as a pastor, even though women are not ordained in the Anglican Church in Myanmar.

“Many remember her teaching them Sunday school during their camp experience,” DesHarnais said. Say, who has learned English, has demonstrated great leadership, serving on the church vestry and the rector search committee, and is an invaluable resource during home visits to parishioners.

“I’ve been working with the Karen people since 2008, and I still don’t speak or read their language,” DesHarnais said. “I have done some visits where I’ve brought a Karen interpreter, and that’s better than my just doing it on my own. But, sometimes people need to talk about things that are very personal, and having somebody along doing interpretation just isn’t a good thing. To serve the older Karen in the community, you have to be fluent.”

Say’s shared experience with parishioners is especially crucial now, as tensions in Myanmar continue to flare, with demonstrators protesting a February 2021 military coup. Recently, leaders of nine Southeast Asian countries called for an immediate end to the violence.

“Right now, they are not just worried about friends in Myanmar,” DesHarnais said. “The older Karen, who had to run from their villages when attacked by the Burmese military, are being re-traumatized by current attacks on Karen villages.”

Say, who hopes to be ordained as a priest in 2023, said she loves “to pray the psalms and sing together on pastoral visits. I am very happy to take care of my people, and to be a priest.”

– The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles and a longtime ENS correspondent.

New guidance will help churches and cathedrals address questions of contested heritage

by lwilson |

[Church of England] The Church of England has published guidance for parishes and cathedrals addressing concerns over memorials with links to slavery and other contested heritage.

The new guidance enables churches and cathedrals to consider the history of their buildings and congregations, and to engage with everyone in their community to understand how physical artifacts may impact their mission and worship. It offers a framework to approach such questions locally and, where necessary, to engage with the relevant bodies who oversee changes to cathedral and church buildings.

Read the full article here.

Anglicans in Kenya donate sanitary and hygiene supplies for survivors of sexual violence

by lwilson |

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Kenya’s development service recently donated sanitary and hygiene supplies to Kenya’s police service gender desks for distribution to survivors of sexual violence in the country’s western region.

The church donated the supplies in partnership with USAID Kenya as part of the Making Well-Informed Efforts to Nurture Disadvantaged Orphans and Vulnerable Children project.

Read the full article here.

‘Live, study, pray’ project to connect student housing with Episcopal campus ministry at University of Georgia

by dpaulsen |
Wright House

Attending the April groundbreaking for the Wright House residences and new Episcopal Center on the University of Georgia campus in Athens are, from left, the Rev. Robert Salamone of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Athens; the Rev. Clayton Harrington, campus missioner; the Rev. Nikki Mathis of St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens; and Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

[Episcopal News Service] The Episcopal campus ministry at the University of Georgia in Athens is undergoing a dramatic transformation, and the disruptions caused by the pandemic are only part of the story.

In March, the Diocese of Atlanta demolished a church building at the center of the campus that had housed the Episcopal Center, though Episcopal students hadn’t gathered or worshipped in the building since the first surge in COVID-19 cases a year earlier. In place of the church, construction is underway on a new residential building, which the diocese is touting as an innovative “live, study, pray” approach to student housing.

The building will be named the Wright House after Atlanta Bishop Robert Wright, in recognition of “his steadfast support for children, youth, and college ministries,” according to a news release. It will have 123 student bedrooms across four above-ground stories and plans to welcome students of all faith backgrounds starting in fall 2022. Amenities will include a roof deck, a fitness facility, a coffee bar, study areas, shared kitchen space and on-site parking. An expanded, multiuse chapel space will accommodate the diocese’s growing campus ministry while also serving as a kind of community center for the building’s residents.

The Rev. Clayton Harrington, the diocese’s campus missioner for the past three years, will move into the building’s separate chaplain’s residence when it opens, making him more available to students, especially those seeking pastoral care.

“If you talk to students, they will tell you being a student is stressful,” Harrington told Episcopal News Service. Basing a chaplain in the building adds “another layer of support where they know that if they are in crisis, there is somebody present that can help.”

The development broke ground in April at a ceremonial event attended by Wright, who called it “an amazing project and a new concept for college ministry” in a written statement released by the diocese.

Valued at $18 million, the development is being overseen by Atlanta-based Pope & Land Real Estate and by the Rev. Lang Lowrey, an Atlanta priest who specializes in guiding church development projects in dioceses across The Episcopal Church. This project was structured to provide a “moderate return” on the diocese’s investment by enlisting equity partners to share the upfront costs, Lowrey told ENS. The diocese will continue to own the property and is hiring CollegeTown Properties to oversee leasing and management.

“One of our big assets across The Episcopal Church are our college ministries,” Lowrey said, especially ministries like the one at the University of Georgia that are centrally located on campus. “It’s at the intersection of everything.”

The proximity of dining halls, freshman dorms and a bus line to the rebuilt Episcopal Center is billed as a central amenity to Episcopal students, Lowrey said, though the “live, study, pray” concept transcends religious affiliations. He called it a “community of inclusion.”

“You don’t have to be a practicing Episcopalian, but we do want you to be intentional about your studies,” he said.

An architectural rendering shows the Wright House, which is being developed at 980 South Lumpkin Street in Athens, Georgia, at the heart of the University of Georgia campus. Photo: Diocese of Atlanta

Students’ normal study habits were upended in March 2020 when the onset of the pandemic forced colleges and universities everywhere to move classes online. The Episcopal Center’s ministry to Georgia students also moved online during the final months of the previous academic year, which “made staying connected trickier,” Harrington said.

This academic year, students returned in the fall to a hybrid learning setup, with some classes still held online. Others met in person with students and faculty following public health guidelines, like distancing and mask-wearing, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

When Harrington took over as campus missioner in 2018, a core group of fewer than 10 students regularly attended the ministry’s community meals, worship services and formation activities. In two years, the ministry rebounded to the point that gatherings at the Episcopal Center regularly drew 30 to 35 students. Despite the pandemic’s disruptions, many of those students remain engaged with the ministry online, and they have flocked this year to the in-person services that Harrington offered outside the Episcopal Center.

After the Episcopal Center was razed, Harrington began organizing limited indoor gatherings this spring through an arrangement with the campus’ Presbyterian Center. Episcopal events will continue to be held there until the new Episcopal Center is completed. He also encourages Episcopal students to attend Sunday services at one of the two Episcopal churches in Athens: St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church and Emmanuel Episcopal Church, at which Harrington also serves part time as associate rector.

Though reluctant to sound nostalgic, Harrington said he and the students he serves long for a return to the kinds of personal interactions and communal spaces that they had taken for granted before the pandemic. When the new Episcopal Center opens in fall 2022, “I think there will be a kind of sense of homecoming,” he said.

Lowrey declined to elaborate on details of the development’s financing, citing confidentiality agreements with the diocese’s equity partners. The diocese chose not to maximize its potential revenue from the student residences, he said, so that it could invest more in its campus ministry while also keeping rents reasonable for students. Lowrey estimated bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, could rent for up $1,200 a month, though a final rate has not yet been set. By comparison, living in a typical residence hall costs $6,292 this academic year, according to the university, while off-campus housing typically has more amenities and is more expensive.

The diocese also is developing a needs-based scholarship program to assist students who want to move into the Wright House when it is completed but who aren’t able to afford the cost.

The Episcopal students who are involved with the campus ministry responded with excitement to the announcement last month of the plans for a dynamic new building on the site of the former Episcopal Center. “It was a high note to be able to announce this at the end of a difficult year,” Harrington said.

He, too, is looking forward to moving into the new building with his 11-year-old poodle, Talya. He already has visions of celebrating Holy Eucharist in midweek evening services in the chapel and bringing in tables and chairs for regular community meals.

“Everybody’s welcome, and we don’t just say that. That actually means something,” he said.

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

Anglicans reflect on Indigenous reconciliation in Canada 5 years after landmark report

by emillard |

[Anglican Journal] Five years after Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its final report and 94 calls to action as a response to the legacy of Canada’s residential school system, the Anglican Church of Canada’s national Indigenous archbishop and reconciliation animator say progress on reconciliation has been mixed.

“I think that there are some things that have gone much better than I would have imagined,” says National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald. “There are other things that I thought would change more rapidly that haven’t changed at all.”

MacDonald says that over the past five years he has seen a “substantial change in the way in which, overall, people perceive Canada and the way that the church in particular sees its work.”

Read the entire article here.

Indiana Episcopalians open state’s first LGBTQ youth shelter

by emillard |

Trinity Haven’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Indianapolis

[Diocese of Indianapolis] Even before the ribbon was cut to officially open Trinity Haven, Indiana’s first residential facility for LGBTQ youth and young adults who are at risk of homelessness, two people were living in the house.

“As soon as we announced our opening date, young people began contacting Trinity Haven,” says Leigh Ann Hirschman, a member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Indianapolis and founding president of Trinity Haven’s board of directors. “Because they knew they would be imminently homeless. So, our opening is something to celebrate, but it has also been poignant to see how real this is; to see this need and to put faces on the need, and to watch the project move into reality.”

Trinity Haven’s road from idea to reality was a long one, beginning in 2016 when Trinity’s new rector, the Rev. Julia Whitworth, convened a discernment committee to determine the best use of an empty house the parish owned, and culminating on April 30 with the opening of an entirely different building. The journey was a sadly illuminating one.

“In the course of that work we learned that LGBTQ youth homelessness is an invisible crisis in Indianapolis,” Hirschman says. “Forty percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Sixty-eight percent say that family rejection of their gender identity or sexual orientation is a major reason that they are homeless. Moreover, we learned that there are LGBTQ youth who are sleeping on park benches, in doorways, and on city buses trying to stay warm and safe.”

Whitworth remembers when the committee brought the possibility of opening a home for LGBTQ youth to the parish in 2017. “These folks barely batted an eye in saying this was the thing to do,” she says. “As a priest, the story of Trinity Haven has been the story of helping people embrace a call in their lives that they didn’t see coming.”

When it became clear that Trinity could not use the house it owned for the project, the parish provided a $500,000 loan to purchase another house nearby, as well as $50,000 in donations. Over time, parishioners contributed an additional $200,000. The project also received grants from Impact 100 of Greater Indianapolis and the United Thank Offering (UTO).

“In those initial days, they had the courage to collaborate and move beyond just Trinity Church and really to develop a network of support,” says the Rev. Jeff Bower, associate rector for stewardship and community engagement at St. Paul’s, Indianapolis, who became involved in the project early on, eventually becoming a member of the board of directors. Grants from the Faith & Action Project at Christian Theological Seminary and Lilly Endowment were also essential, he says.

The Diocese of Indianapolis assisted by naming Trinity Haven a cooperating ministry. The designation allows Trinity Haven to purchase staff health insurance and other benefits through the diocese. Indianapolis parishes, including All Saints, Christ Church Cathedral, Church of the Nativity and St. Paul’s, have all provided support and leadership.

Trinity Haven offers a transitional living program at the Trinity Haven house, which provides up to 24 months of housing, stabilization assistance, support services, independent living skills, case management, and care coordination for residents of ages 16-21, and a host homes program, which provides an average of 6 months of housing with a host family and intensive case management for ages 16-24.

“This is unfortunately a huge need in our community, and as an openly gay married white male, I realize that my life might have been very different had I come out in my adolescent years,” Bower says. “Now I’m 60 years old, but had I come out at the time that I was 15, 16, 17, I’m not quite sure that I wouldn’t need a place like Trinity Haven. So, it’s been one of my passions to be a voice and an advocate for youth to have a safe place and environment where they can grow and flourish and really be able to advocate for themselves. That’s what Trinity Haven is about: allowing kids to live into full potential as loved by God, and to shape a different narrative.”

Trinity Haven will continue to have a close relationship with Trinity Church but the facility is not a religious one. “It is important that these young people understand there are no religious requirements because unfortunately, so many of them have experienced mistreatment in the name of religion,” Hirschman says.

Whitworth sees the creation of Trinity Haven as an opportunity to exemplify a more loving brand of religion. “We live in a state that has been historically inhospitable, abusive and damaging to LGBTQ people,” she says. “And much of the hatefulness stems from poor religious teaching and religious malpractice that distorts the teachings of Jesus in a way that leads a parent to expel their child because of who they are and who they love. To have the opportunity not just as Trinity Church, but the entire diocese to paint a different view of Christians and a different way of being the church is so powerful and so important, and it feels like an incredible privilege to live into our gospel.”

Trinity Haven is now its own independent 5013c, but its founding institutional relationships will remain in place. Trinity Church’s rector will have a seat on the board, in addition to two seats for church members and a seat for the Diocese of Indianapolis.

“It has been a goal of the church and it has been a goal of mine personally to make sure that this project, once incubated and stabilized, is led by people who reflect the identities of the youth in the house,” Hirschman says. “It is so gratifying to see that our crackerjack staff is now leading this organization and walking a journey with the residents of the house. … The house now feels like a happy home. The staff are co-creating a community with the residents.”

Whitworth turned over her key to executive director Jenni White last week. “I said, ‘okay now this is somebody’s home.’ It’s thrilling.”

But Whitworth doesn’t want to stop there. “I have had a dream from the get-go that we could create a model that’s replicable for other churches in other parts of the country. We have learned so much, and once this is thriving in the way that we imagine it will be, we hope that the story of Trinity Haven can be an inspiring one for other parishes who are looking to use their properties in a way that is life giving for their communities.”

Now through May 31, all donations to Trinity Haven will be matched, up to $25,000. Donate online.

Missouri Bishop Deon Johnson speaks out against bill to allow guns in churches

by emillard |

[Episcopal News Service] The Rt. Rev. Deon Johnson, bishop of the Diocese of Missouri, joined other religious leaders in the St. Louis area in denouncing a bill in the state Legislature that would allow people to carry concealed guns into places of worship without asking permission.

Johnson was one of eight spiritual leaders representing Christian, Jewish and ethical humanist groups who spoke at a press conference organized by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis on April 28 to oppose Missouri House Bill 944.

“It’s a sad honor to be standing here with these religious leaders, opposing a bill that probably should not have seen the light of day,” Johnson said at the press conference, arguing that “guns have no place in places of worship.”

The bill is a Republican-sponsored effort to remove restrictions on carrying guns in public. Currently, Missouri law requires citizens to get the permission of the supervising clergy before bringing a gun into a house of worship. HB 944 would remove that requirement, allowing anyone with a concealed carry weapons permit to bring a gun into a church, synagogue or mosque without seeking permission. Religious institutions that do not want guns on their property would have to post signs saying they are not allowed on the premises.

“We should not have to do this,” said Roman Catholic Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski, who convened the press conference and said legislators should have consulted religious leaders before proposing the bill. “Please keep our places of worship free from these tools of violence and any signs of it.”

The bill, which would also allow guns on public transportation and would lower the age for concealed carry weapons permits from 19 to 18, passed the state House overwhelmingly and is now before the Senate.

Johnson and the other faith leaders said the bill makes dangerous and violent situations more likely and creates a culture of fear.

“[The] Second Amendment right does not override my right and the right of people of faith” to worship safely, Johnson said.

He and others cited mass shootings in recent years, like the 2018 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, synagogue massacre and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. Johnson said he has carried the names of Sandy Hook victims in his heart ever since.

“The list of those who lost their lives to guns in mass shootings, everyday shootings and suicide since 2012 … is long, and every day it gets longer,” he said. “Each day in this country, 316 people are shot. Every single day. And 106 of them die every day.”

Johnson is a member of Bishops United Against Gun Violence, which has been advocating for gun control and reform since its inception in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. Other members of the network have also spoken out in opposition to other bills that would make it easier to carry guns in public. Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows and Northern Indiana Bishop Doug Sparks wrote to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in April to urge him not to sign a bill that would have eliminated the requirement for gun carrying permits in Indiana. That bill did not make it out of the state Senate.

As for the Missouri bill, Johnson and the other faith leaders urged legislators to backtrack and reach out to the clergy who will be most affected by its proposed changes. The Diocese of Missouri says that if the bill passes, Johnson will take action to ensure guns are not allowed in the diocese’s churches.

“I urge our legislators not just to abandon this bill [but] to sit down with religious people, people of many different faiths, to hear our stories, to listen to us,” he said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Key documents of new Canadian Indigenous Anglican church drafted

by emillard |

[Anglican Journal] The foundational documents of the planned Indigenous Anglican church in Canada have now been drafted, and Sacred Circle will be discussing them when it meets online June 10-12, National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald says.

Also, MacDonald says, “The Sacred Circle”—which has up to now been the name of the national gatherings of Indigenous Anglicans held every two or three years—has been tentatively chosen as the name for the new church itself.

Sacred Circle, he says, has been working on a Covenant (similar to a constitution) and a document, similar to a set of canons, called Our Way of Life. The Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous House of Bishops Leadership Circle has reviewed the first draft of these documents, which will soon be translated into some Indigenous languages. When Sacred Circle meets this month, it will discuss them, after which they will be sent back to local communities for more discussion; they’ll then be the subject of another online meeting in the fall, and then be “fulfilled and sealed” by a Eucharist in June 2022, he says.

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The beloved church coffee hour may soon return as COVID-19 fades in US

by emillard |

[Religion News Service] The first time coffee showed up in church, things did not go well.

First developed in the Muslim world in the mid-800s, coffee was initially greeted by the Vatican, according to traditional stories, as a “hellish” brew meant to tempt Christians.

“For Christians to drink it, was to risk falling into a trap set by Satan for their soul,” wrote William Harrison Ukers in his 1922 book, “All About Coffee.”

Thankfully, said the Rev. Tim Schenck, Pope Clement VII, who ruled in the 16th century, had a better idea.

After trying a cup for himself and finding it delicious, Clement decided to baptize coffee in order to fool Satan and “make it a Christian beverage,” said Schenck, an Episcopal priest and author of “Holy Grounds: The Surprising Connection Between Coffee and Faith.”

Five centuries later, coffee hour is now a staple of congregational life for many houses of worship, where members drink coffee, often brewed in commercial vats, and chitchat before or after services. But with in-person worship services paused during the pandemic, coffee hour disappeared. That time of socializing is one of the things that churchgoers have missed most about meeting in person.

A poll from Barna found that after Communion (24%), people missed socializing with other churchgoers the most (23%).

“And Communion only beat the coffee hour by a single percent,” said Schenck, a coffee lover himself and rector of St. John the Evangelist Church in Hingham, Massachusetts.

The Rev. Tim Schenck. Photo via Twitter

The Rev. Tim Schenck. Photo via Twitter

Some congregations have tried virtual coffee hours during COVID-19. They worked at first but faded as people got Zoom fatigue. The last thing people wanted was another Zoom.

Besides, said Schenck, people don’t come to the coffee hour just for a cup of joe; they want human connection, something many people have missed during the pandemic.

“I really look at the coffee hour as kind of building community up one cup at a time,” he said. “Sometimes there’s superficial chitchat — that’s just part of being human — but I also think, from a spiritual perspective, there is a profound connection. It’s literally a time to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. It is absolutely something people have missed.”

As Schenck notes in “Holy Grounds,” coffee has long spiritual roots. Among the first coffee drinkers were Sufi mystics, who found that it helped them stay up for late-night prayers. The religious establishment, meanwhile, has been predictably skeptical: In his book, Ukers writes about leaders in the Muslim world trying to quash the habit of drinking coffee, to no avail.

In recent decades, some churches in the United States have started Starbucks-style coffee shops in the lobby, with names like He-Brews or Jehovah Java. (One Chicago church had an occasional coffeehouse called Café Eutychus, after a young man mentioned in the Book of Acts who fell asleep during a sermon by the Apostle Paul and tumbled out a window.)

A virtual coffee hour during the pandemic. Photo by Armin Schreijäg/Pixabay/Creative Commons

A virtual coffee hour during the pandemic. Photo by Armin Schreijäg/Pixabay/Creative Commons

In one infamous case, a church coffee hour turned into a crime scene. More than a dozen people were sickened and one died after drinking coffee at a New Sweden, Maine, Lutheran church in 2003. A longtime church member took his own life a few days later and confessed in a suicide note to having poisoned the coffee with arsenic. A second church member died in 2009 from health issues linked to the poisoning.

George Holleway, pastor at Forterra Church, a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation in Cypress, Texas, said coffee hour was one of the most important times in his church’s life. A small congregation that began meeting in public for worship just before COVID-19 hit, the church needed the time together to get acquainted and make friends.

“I heard from quite a few people that one of their favorite things about going to church was getting to hang out and drink coffee and eat food with people,” he said. “ We would hang out for an hour, hour-and-a-half after church. Just hanging out talking, eating and drinking coffee and tea.”

Holleway said that at a previous church where he was on staff, a survey of the congregation asked, What is one thing we could do for you?

George Holleway. Photo courtesy of Forterra Church

George Holleway. Photo courtesy of Forterra Church

“One of the things we heard over and over was, Can you help me make a friend?” he said.

Not being able to meet together for worship or to drink coffee has been a kind of a “gut punch,” said Holleway.

In early March, Texas dropped its COVID-19 restrictions, and Forterra is holding worship services in person again, though with social distancing and other precautions. Getting coffee hour back may take a while and when it starts, it might be outside.

Before COVID-19, Lisa Schutte, who attends the Church at Pine Ridge, just outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba, said she enjoyed visiting with other church members in the church gym after services, drinking coffee and eating snacks. She and her husband were relative newcomers to the church and it was a way to get to know people.

During the pandemic, the gym was converted to additional seating for worship so that people could social distance, and coffee hour was put on hold.

“I’m sure it won’t be forever,” she told Religion News Service.

When coffee hour returns, Schutte plans to be there.

“And if not,” she joked on Twitter, “we’ll be fellowshipping in Heaven with a far better feast then medium roast coffee & generic Oreos.”

Schenck, whose congregation is still meeting online, said he looks forward to seeing people when coffee hour returns. But the coffee?

While attending a recent diocesan Zoom meeting, he enjoyed a pour-over cup of Ethiopian coffee out of a favorite mug. If the group had met in person, he said, he’d have been holding a mass-produced brew in a plastic foam cup.

“One thing about online church,” he said, “is that the coffee has never been better.”

This story was originally published by Religion News Service and is republished here with permission.