[Mayo 20, 2019] El Departamento de Formación de Fe anunció hoy que el Episcopal Youth Event (EYE20) se llevará a cabo en colaboración con la Catedral Nacional de Washington y la Diócesis Episcopal de Washington en el campus de la Universidad de Howard del 7 al 11 de julio de 2020.
“La Universidad de Howard fue elegida como el lugar para el EYE20 después de un exhaustivo proceso de solicitud y discernimiento”, dijo Wendy Johnson, coordinadora de eventos para EYE20. “Estamos agradecidos por cada diócesis, empleado y obispo que trabajó con nosotros durante el año pasado, y esperamos con ansias trabajar junto a la Universidad de Howard, la Diócesis de Washington y la Catedral Nacional de Washington para organizar EYE20 “.
“En la Diócesis de Washington nos sentimos honrados de colaborar para darle la bienvenida al Evento Episcopal Juvenil de 2020 en Washington, DC, y oramos para que todos los involucrados en el proceso de planificación sientan el poder del Espíritu Santo guiándolos en cada paso del camino”, dijo el Reverendo Correcto Mariann Edgar Budde, obispa diocesana. “Estamos agradecidos de ser el lugar donde cientos de jóvenes se reunirán para acercarse más a Jesús y seguir su camino de amor”.
“Qué alegría será darles la bienvenida a estos jóvenes a Washington DC”, dijo el Reverendísimo Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Deán de la Catedral Nacional de Washington. “Estamos muy contentos de ayudar a acoger este evento y estamos muy agradecidos de trabajar con la Universidad de Howard.”
Las inscripciones para EYE20 se coordinan a través de los registradores diocesanos que el obispo diocesano nombrará en el otoño. Las instrucciones para discernir una delegación diocesana se enviarán directamente a los registradores.
El equipo de planificación EYE20 ha sido nombrado
Cada evento juvenil episcopal es planificado e implementado por jóvenes voluntarios y adultos mentores seleccionados a través de un proceso de solicitud y discernimiento.
“Episcopal Youth Event es único en la vida de la iglesia, ya que es planificado por un equipo de jóvenes episcopales, para jóvenes episcopales”, dijo Bronwyn Clark Skov, directora del Departamento de Formación de Fe y funcionaria de ministerios juveniles. “Esperamos con ansias trabajar con este nuevo equipo para planificar un evento que se contextualice tanto dentro de la era en la que vivimos, así como dentro de la ubicación en Washington DC”.
Los siguientes jóvenes solicitantes han aceptado la invitación a participar en el equipo de planificación EYE20:
- Jackson Humphreys, Diócesis Episcopal de Massachusetts, Provincia I
- Caitlin Mahoney, Convocación de Iglesias Episcopales en Europa, Provincia II
- Adajah D. Joseph, Diócesis Episcopal de Long Island, Provincia II
- Yifan Wang, Diócesis Episcopal de Long Island, Provincia II
- Charlie Kirk, Diócesis Episcopal de Tennessee Oriental, Provincia IV
- Owen Snape, Diócesis Episcopal de Atlanta, Provincia IV
- Robert Sánchez, Diócesis Episcopal de Indianápolis, Provincia V
- Kayla Byrd, Diócesis Episcopal de Michigan, Provincia V
- Trueli Thor, Iglesia Episcopal en Minnesota, Provincia VI
- Solveigh Barney, Diócesis Episcopal de Dakota del Norte, Provincia VI
- Arty Langford, Diócesis Episcopal de Wyoming, Provincia VI
- Caleb Carnes, Diócesis Episcopal de Texas, Provincia VII
- Cole Hadden, Diócesis Episcopal de Arkansas, Provincia VII
- Emily Lawitz, Diócesis Episcopal de Texas Occidental, Provincia VII
- Holly Quinonez Wrampelmeier, Diócesis Episcopal de Texas Noroccidental, Provincia VII
- Giovanna Zampa, Diócesis Episcopal de California Norte, Provincia VIII
Se discernirá quien será el miembro joven del equipo de planificación de la Provincia IX este verano después de Evento de Jóvenes Episcopales.
Los siguientes solicitantes como adultos mentores han aceptado la invitación a participar en el equipo de planificación EYE20:
- Nikia Alleyne, Diócesis Episcopal de Long Island
- Margaret Foote, Diócesis Episcopal de Ohio Sur
- Israel Alexander Portilla Gómez, Diócesis Episcopal de Colombia
- Christoph Herpel, Convocación de Iglesias Episcopales en Europa
- Patrick Kangrga, Diócesis Episcopal de California
- Michele Morgan, Diócesis Episcopal de Washington
- Marcia Quintanilla, Diócesis Episcopal de Texas
- Karen Schlabach, Diócesis Episcopal de Kansas
- Joshawa Trader, Diócesis Episcopal Missouri Occidental
Las siguientes personas desempeñan funciones especializadas en el equipo de planificación:
- Julia Domenick, Iglesia Episcopal en Minnesota, es la coordinadora del equipo médico.
- Abigail White Moon, Diócesis Episcopal de Florida, sirve como capellana al equipo de planificación.
- Rich Clark, Diócesis Episcopal del Suroeste de la Florida, coordinador del equipo de cuidado pastoral.
- Lauren Wainwright, Diócesis Episcopal de Dallas, coordinadora del equipo de cuidado pastoral.
- Mildred Reyes, quien sirve como misionera para la formación de la Diócesis Episcopal de Washington, es la persona enlace entre el equipo de planificación EYE20 y la diócesis.
La solicitud para jóvenes adultos con interés en formar parte del equipo de cuidado pastoral estará disponible en junio. El discernimiento y las decisiones en cuanto al equipo ocurrirán en el otoño.
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[Diocese of West Texas – Farmington, New Mexico] Generations of Navajos were born, were treated and died at the San Juan Mission Hospital before it closed five decades ago. Occasionally, someone stops to ask about a hospital record, now kept at All Saints Church, across the gravel parking lot from the hospital building.
Founded in 1918, All Saints grew into the San Juan Mission Hospital in 1922 and was among three medical missions established by The Episcopal Church that served as the only medical facilities for the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation.
Today, after serving the medical needs of the Navajo Nation for decades, the old hospital is taking on a new life as a place to care for tribal members’ emotional wellness and physical needs.
In 2016, The Episcopal Church in Navajoland launched a massive restoration project to transform the boarded-up stone structure into the Hozho Wellness Center. The center will serve Navajo women and families by offering support, counseling and classes, from parenting to cooking, nutrition and art – seeking to restore their sense of hózhó, a Navajo term meaning balance, harmony and life.
While the upper floor will serve as the wellness center, the ground floor will be the home of Cheii’s Web Development, a startup enterprise created by Navajoland to teach young people coding skills and create jobs in web development, graphic and logo design, social media management and photography.
Funding for the project has been provided by The Episcopal Church and other grants and donations.
Despite numerous setbacks, including a fire that required structural repairs, enough work had been accomplished by the spring of 2018 to enable Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to consecrate its small chapel during his tour of Navajoland. The entire project was scheduled for completion in mid-2019.
The wellness center project also has had volunteer help from the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and Trinity Church Wall Street. A six-member delegation from the Diocese of West Texas spent a week this spring working on the center, following another team from the diocese that did construction work and painted in fall 2018.
Amid endless runs to the landscape nursery and the local home improvement warehouse for supplies paid for by the Diocese of West Texas, the small group of volunteers installed a drip irrigation system for future landscaping foliage; added a drainage pathway to route rainwater away from the building’s foundation; planted two apple trees, a pear tree and a plum tree; painted the interior staircase; provided advice on how to install the mantel on the fireplace; cleaned out the yard of the former rectory, now used as a dormitory for visiting volunteers; hauled off rolls of old carpet to the dump; and grubbed up a vegetable garden.
“I think this is wonderful,” said volunteer Tom Lee, a retired district attorney and judge and a member of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Bandera, Texas. “I hope it’s a blessing to the Navajo. We’re trying to give them a place of peace and joy.”
The Hozho Wellness Center and All Saints Church are part of The Episcopal Church in Navajoland, the only area mission in the church. As such, it functions like a diocese with its own bishop but is under the oversight of the presiding bishop and House of Bishops. It was formed in 1977 by the House of Bishops from portions of the Dioceses of Arizona and Utah. In 1979, the General Convention added a part of the Diocese of the Rio Grande.
The area mission overlays the Navajo Reservation, home to about 125,000-150,000 Navajos, of whom about 1,000 are Episcopalians. At one time, as many as 5,000 Episcopalians lived there. All Saints, with the Rev. Michael Sells as its priest-in-charge, is one of nine Episcopal churches in the region.
The Navajos call themselves The Diné – The People – and are one of the largest American Indian tribes in the United States. Their culture is centered on a divine creator, and their tradition of worship rooted in the earth.
The Navajos are famous as Code Talkers who, in their native tongue, passed secret messages among U.S. forces fighting the Japanese in World War II. The Japanese never cracked the language, which helped lead to their defeat.
The genesis of the Diocese of West Texas’s relationship with Navajoland began when Navajoland Bishop David Bailey contacted West Texas Bishop David Reed about forming a partnership between the two entities.
Bailey visited the headquarters of the West Texas diocese in San Antonio in December 2017 and spent nearly a day talking about the Navajos and the priorities.
“He told us about his background, about the needs, about the challenges of working in Navajoland, the challenges of the people,” said Marthe Curry, director of world mission development for the diocese and leader of the spring trip. “When he came, he said that we don’t want your money, we want your partnership.”
Bailey returned to West Texas in February 2018 to speak at the annual Diocesan Council.
Since then, several teams from the diocese have visited Navajoland to listen and explore needs.
A struggle across generations
The most traumatic experience for the Navajo occurred on the Long Walk in 1864 when the U.S. Army forcibly removed the Navajo from their homeland in Canyon de Chelly and marched them across New Mexico during a brutal winter to Bosque Redondo at Fort Sumner. Their possessions were taken, farmlands destroyed and livestock killed. They were not allowed to return to their homeland until 1868.
The Navajo continued to suffer other abuses under the government, such as their children being taken, placed in boarding schools and punished for speaking their language and practicing their culture.
The area, which encompasses parts of three states – New Mexico, Utah and Arizona – has four casinos yet only three hospitals.
The unemployment rate is 47 percent, a staggering 90 percent in the most remote and isolated pockets on the Navajo Reservation. A third of the people have no running water and haul water to their homes in barrels on the beds of pickup trucks. Electricity is equally scarce.
Nearly a third of the people live in extreme poverty. There are also high rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic abuse and diabetes and other health issues. Suicide rates are high, especially among young people.
Church leaders are also sensitive about how to blend Anglican traditions in culturally appropriate ways that also honor the Navajo faith traditions.
“The Navajos had a connection with God, they had a connection with the spirit, they had a connection with the land,” said Jeanne Loggie of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in San Antonio who was a member of the first delegation to visit Navajoland in 2018. “It was in the plants, it was in the rocks, it was in the wind, it was in the rain. It was in every element. Then the white man came in, and we cast that aside. We told them what they should believe and how they connect.”
The Navajo beliefs and Episcopal beliefs are “different faiths,” said the Rev. Cornelia Eaton, one of five representatives from The Episcopal Church to attend the 2019 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
“I can blend the two faiths together,” she explained while standing on the doorsteps of All Saints. She was raised an Episcopalian at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in nearby Upper Fruitland. “It’s a good mix. It’s a good challenge – how God can work in different ways. We can be a church that is very unique.”
Sells, priest-in-charge of All Saints, majored in economics at Arizona State University and is newly ordained. He decided to enter the ministry after trying law school for a year and finding that it wasn’t the career he wanted. With the encouragement of Bailey, Sells attended Church Divinity School of the Pacific and was placed at All Saints last fall.
“My dream is that my little church will be self-sustaining and eventually do outreach,” said Sells, himself a Navajo. Like Sells, most members of All Saints and other Episcopal churches here were raised as Episcopalians rather than joining the denomination later.
Sells sometimes blends the Anglican and Navajo cultures together in a service, such as incorporating Navajo prayers, eagle feathers and cedar blessings. To acknowledge their traditions, Sells invites his congregation to gather in the sanctuary of All Saints Church to sing Navajo songs and traditional hymns in their native language.
Hope for the future
This late spring day, as the last long rays of the sun settled across the flat-topped mesas of the Navajo Reservation, the West Texas volunteers joined with a half-dozen Navajos from All Saints in lifting their voices together in singing the famous hymn of redemption, “Amazing Grace,” but only after the visitors were given a brief lesson in pronunciations.
“Our teams are very impressed and interested and learning about their religion,” said Curry, the West Texas world mission director. “We’re trying to see overlaps. They have been fascinated with the Navajo liturgy. Our teams have been interested in their perspective about God,” especially respect for the creator.
“I see it as another way to seek spirituality, another way to seek connections to God,” Loggie, the San Antonio volunteer, said in an interview. “That’s what we’re all doing, that’s what we’re all struggling with, where is my part in respecting and honoring God?”
One effort to help the Navajo become more self-sufficient is Shimá of Navajoland, a market for hand-crafted soaps, honey and blue cornmeal.
Curry has been asked to help create a master plan for the area. One main area of focus is St. Christopher’s Episcopal Mission in Bluff, Utah, whose 8-acre campus and multiple buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also provides a community garden and free water well for nearby residents.
“It’s like a ghost town,” she said. “There are lots of buildings, but most of them need restoration and repairs. Some of them are falling apart.”
The Diocese of West Texas has tasked Rob Watson, director of camps and conferences at the diocese, to get involved at St. Christopher’s and help plan a way to transform it into a retreat center.
“He was beside himself with all the potential. It’s gorgeous out here,” Curry said.
With the help of the Rev. Kay Rohde, a former National Parks ranger who now is priest-in-charge at St. Christopher’s, a list of needs was drawn up for every building and input was obtained about what the Navajo would like to see happen there.
An hour away, at St. Mary’s of the Moonlight Episcopal Church near Monument Valley, Utah, Bailey has a vision of developing accommodations, such as a hostel or hotel, to serve the area’s bustling tourist industry.
The goal is to “tie everything into the master plan rather than everybody having their own little project,” Curry said.
The volunteers who have visited Navajoland on numerous work and listening trips over the past year return home deeply touched by their experience on the arid landscape and with the Navajo.
“I developed a huge interest in the people and the land,” Loggie said. “The land is holy. That was so profound to me, I just felt drawn in. You can feel it in the wind, you can feel it in the earth. It’s a presence, it’s almost a presence you can’t see. But I felt it in everything. I cried a lot when I was there. It was a very spiritual experience, very emotional.”
– Mike Patterson, a freelance writer and photographer, is a member of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Blanco, Texas. He is a frequent contributor to The Church News and the Episcopal News Service.
[Episcopal Church in Vermont] The Episcopal Church in Vermont has announced the election of the Rev. Shannon MacVean-Brown, interim rector at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Franklin, Indiana, as its 11th bishop diocesan.
MacVean-Brown was elected on the first ballot of the Special Electing Convention held May 18 in Burlington, receiving 41 votes in the clergy order and 69 votes in the lay order. A minimum of 31 clergy votes and 58 lay votes were necessary for election on that ballot.
The other nominees were:
• The Rev. Hillary D. Raining, rector, St. Christopher’s Church, Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.
• The Very Rev. Hilary B. Smith, rector, Holy Comforter, Richmond, Virginia.
“I am thrilled to welcome the Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown as bishop-elect,” the Rev. Rick Swanson, president of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Church in Vermont, said. “Her gifts and skills for ministry will not only lead the Episcopal Church of Vermont into the future, but her role in the wider Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion will be a voice of hope and promise for all of God’s people throughout the world.”
Commenting on the election, MacVean-Brown said, “I’m excited that the people of the Episcopal Church in Vermont are so willing to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and try something courageous. I am looking forward to forging relationships, participating in ministry, and joining in the work of the church in the brave little state of Vermont.”
This historic election marks the first time an African American has been elected as bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont. Additionally, MacVean-Brown will be one of only three African American women to hold the title of bishop in any of the seven dioceses that make up the Episcopal Church in New England, also known as Province I of The Episcopal Church. The first was the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris, who served as a bishop suffragan in the Diocese of Massachusetts from 1989 to 2003 and the Rt. Rev. Gayle Harris, who is presently serving as bishop suffragan in that diocese.
MacVean-Brown holds a Master of Divinity degree from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Ecumenical Theological Seminary. She was ordained deacon in 2004 and priest in 2005 in the Diocese of Michigan. MacVean-Brown and her husband, Phil, have been married for 26 years. Together they have three daughters. MacVean-Brown resides in Indiana but will be relocating to Vermont.
Pending the consent of a majority of Episcopal bishops with jurisdiction and a majority of the diocesan standing committees, MacVean-Brown will be ordained and consecrated on Sept. 28 at Ira Allen Chapel in Burlington. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, will serve as the chief consecrator.
MacVean-Brown will succeed the Rt. Rev. Thomas C. Ely, who has served as bishop since 2001 and will retire in October.
The Episcopal Church in Vermont encompasses 45 congregations across the Green Mountain State.
[Episcopal Church in Colorado] The Rev. Kimberly (Kym) Lucas was ordained and consecrated as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Church in Colorado on May 18 at Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver. Lucas became the first woman bishop as well as the first African American bishop in the diocese’s 132-year history.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry led the service as chief consecrator. The Very Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, New York City, and canon theologian at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, was the preacher. Following the service, a celebratory reception was held on the lawn at Saint John’s Cathedral.
On May 19, the newly consecrated bishop was formally welcomed and seated at Saint John’s Cathedral at the 10:30 a.m. service. Her seating in the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, is symbolic of the bishop’s office.
Lucas was chosen as the bishop during its 131st Annual Convention on Oct. 27. Lucas has served as rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Washington since January 2012. Previously, she was rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, from 2005 to 2011.
Lucas grew up in Spring Lake, North Carolina, and received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Wake Forest University. She received her Master of Divinity, New Testament, at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Lucas and her husband, Mark Retherford, have four children.
Lucas succeeded the Rt. Rev. Robert O’Neill, who had served for 15 years. The Episcopal Church in Colorado was established in 1887 and has approximately 30,000 members across 96 parishes and missions in Colorado.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Ian Ernest, the bishop of Mauritius and former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Indian Ocean, is to become the archbishop of Canterbury’s next personal representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. He will take up his new role towards the end of the year following an official visit to Mauritius by Pope France in September.
Read the full article here.
[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson has been suspended from office, following information passed to Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby by police.
Welby stressed in a written statement that “there has been no allegation that Bishop Christopher has committed abuse of a child or vulnerable adult.” But Welby said that if the information provided to him was proven, “I consider that the bishop would present a significant risk of harm by not adequately safeguarding children and vulnerable people.”
Read the full article here.
[Diocese of Massachusetts] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry joined retired Massachusetts Bishop Suffragan Barbara C. Harris and House of Deputies Vice President Byron Rushing on April 28 at Grace Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for a candid panel conversation about racism and about who is on the inside, who is on the outside and who is still on the margins of the church and society.
The program, “Our Episcopal ‘Big Tent’: How Big Is It?” was the culminating public event of Curry’s April 26-29 visit in the Diocese of Massachusetts that included preaching at a “Way of Love” rally on Boston Common and gatherings with numerous ministries, groups and congregations from the Merrimack Valley to Cape Cod.
“I think the reality is we are not as big a tent as we sometimes think. We’re not as small as we once were,” Curry said, in terms of inclusion, “and I suspect that the tension is that we are somewhere between who we actually are, which is a mix. It is a mix. …
“You think the tent is bigger when you’re at the center, but when you’re on the edge, it’s not that big because it doesn’t feel like there’s room for you,” Curry said, adding, “I’ve gotta tell you, it’s work to be a minority in the majority culture, whether that’s racial, or whether that’s gender, or that’s orientation, or whether that’s political.”
Rushing, who is serving a third term as vice president of the House of Deputies and is a former Massachusetts state representative, said it is essential to understand that the call to be a church for everyone is a countercultural idea, given that most Americans still live in segregated communities.
He described growing up in a Bronx, New York, neighborhood where the majority non-black population was Jewish. “And so when I looked around when I was growing up, I thought all Christians were black and all white people were Jewish,” he said.
“The biggest problem of any kind of openness to everybody is that we expect people to arrive some place. And so the people who are in the middle of that place are the most comfortable in that place,” Rushing said. “Sometimes you can be on the edge but you have made a middle for yourself, which is what black people have done in The Episcopal Church. And sometimes even then, there is no place where certain people can have a middle.”
Harris, who this year marked the 30th anniversary of her consecration as the first female bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion, said she is “not as sure the tent is as big as we proclaim it to be, or we may have inadvertently closed some of the flaps by which people can meaningfully come in,” she said. “I think for this really to be a big tent, we have to more fully live into the words: Come in under the broad umbrella of faith. Period.”
All three shared personal stories of answering a call to act for justice when there was personal or professional risk involved, and all three pointed to Jesus in their closing words of challenge and encouragement for these divided and partisan times.
Harris said she wouldn’t deal in words of woe, but left the audience with this advice: “My mother used to say to me, growing up, ‘Pray to God and ask people.’ So that’s my word of weal,” Harris said. “Pray to God and ask people, and some right will come out of it.”
“I’m with Barbara in this,” Rushing said. “I think most of us in this room could give the woe list real fast. I am convinced that the authority is Jesus. And I am more and more convinced that he is with us for this one reason: To have us understand that we are all human beings and have to love each other. That there is no love if we can figure out ways of having some list of people that we don’t have to love.”
“Amen and amen to them,” Curry replied. He recalled the previous day’s meeting with young adults in their 20s and 30s. “The only word I can think of to describe it, it was holy,” he said. “They were asking about how do you run the race and keep running because it’s hard, and opposition within and without is real. And it’s like you say, Byron, you’ve got to keep looking at Jesus.”
“Keep eyes on him, because Palm Sunday is real and everybody’s happy,” Curry said. “And Good Friday is real, and ain’t nobody happy. But Easter’s always coming.”
Video of the full “Our Episcopal ‘Big Tent’: How Big Is It?” program and video of the “Way of Love” rally on Boston Common, are available here.
– Tracy J. Sukraw is director of communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
[Anglican Communion News Service] A Pakistan court has ruled in favor of the Church of Pakistan’s attempt to retain independence for an Anglican college in Peshawar, after the moderator of the church took legal action to defend it against a government take over.
Interference in Edwardes College from the governor of Peshawar over the past few months had forced Bishop of Peshawar Humphrey Peters to defend its independence and its governance and budgets from being revised. The court ruling this week blocked the local government’s attempts to interfere in college affairs.
Read the full article here.
[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal congregations in Florida’s Panhandle were approved recently for nearly a half-million dollars in aid from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast and Episcopal Relief & Development to repair their churches and to serve their communities, which are still recovering from Hurricane Michael seven months ago.
The diocese is preparing to distribute a little more than $200,000 to cover repairs and insurance deductibles for eight churches in the region – including one, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Marianna, that just recently got clearance to return to its sanctuary. Because of structural damage, St. Luke’s has been worshipping in its parish hall since the hurricane, diocesan disaster relief coordinator Chris Heaney told Episcopal News Service.
Episcopal Relief & Development approved a $250,000 grant that will be distributed among nine congregations that have ongoing or new ministries serving individuals and organizations as they work to bounce back from the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael.
Central Gulf Coast Bishop Russell Kendrick, in an email to the diocese, also urged Episcopalians to join The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations in advocating for Congress to pass a long-stalled disaster relief bill.
“This is a concrete way that each of us can be an advocate for our friends living in the wake of Hurricane Michael (as well as many other disasters),” Kendrick said. “This is a way we can do our part to turn up the volume of love and justice.”
Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10 at Mexico Beach with an estimated wind speed of 155 mph. Some residents of Florida’s Panhandle lost everything or nearly everything – trees gone, homes damaged or destroyed, businesses darkened, schools closed, jobs up in the air and the uncertainty of how to press on.
When Presiding Bishop Michael Curry visited the region in January, he was welcomed by Episcopalians clinging to hope amid the slow progress toward recovery. Roofs were still patched with blue tarps. Piles of debris dotted the roadsides. Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City was a construction zone, and students attended lessons in makeshift classrooms set up at nearby Holy Nativity Episcopal Church.
Curry, speaking to a packed crowd at the church, said he was inspired by residents’ perseverance.
“To hear what you have done and are doing, therein is hope and grace and the power of love,” Curry said.
Cynthia Fuller, dean of students at Holy Nativity Episcopal School, was among those who heard Curry speak that day, and since then, she has taken a leadership role in a volunteer group called Michael’s Angels, which advocates on behalf of hurricane victims and their communities. It started when someone posted a call to action on Facebook, Fuller said in an interview with ENS, and that call brought about 75 women to an inaugural meeting in February.
“We were trying to figure out what can we do to help our community,” Fuller said. She was one of six women who stayed after the meeting to plot next steps.
She now heads the education subcommittee of Michael’s Angels, with much of her work aimed at helping the large number of students in Bay County schools who are effectively homeless because of the hurricane. Other subcommittees were assigned health care, government relations, development and communications.
Michael’s Angels organized a rally in front of the state Capitol in Tallahassee in April to draw attention to recovery efforts and to put pressure on the federal government to provide disaster money. Fuller said Panhandle residents are frustrated that more than 200 days have passed since their communities were upended by Hurricane Michael, and Congress still has not approved additional aid.
This week, congressional negotiators said they were close to a deal on a $17 billion package of aid for disaster areas in several states, as well as Puerto Rico, the Washington Post reported. A Senate vote could come next week to end a months-long impasse over the funding.
UPDATED ALERT: Disaster Relief Funding! Take action again! Urge your Senators to pass a clean disaster and humanitarian assistance bill! Link: https://t.co/oZzoGrHrJE#EpiscopalAdvocacy pic.twitter.com/fq23UGNScU
— The EPPN (@TheEPPN) May 14, 2019
The Office of Government Relations issued an action alert on May 14 to its Episcopal Public Policy Network, or EPPN, urging members to contact their senators and voice support for the legislation. EPPN noted that one of the stumbling blocks has been the Trump administration’s attempts to add border security funding to the bill.
“Mixing emergency and disaster relief with the Administration’s border policy threatens the ability of our government to respond to the immediate needs of people who are suffering,” the action alert says. “Our nation is long overdue for a serious and thorough reform of our immigration system and policies, but this should not be done while disaster relief is needed.”
Until federal aid arrives, Central Gulf Coast congregations are extending a helping hand in a variety of ways, now with financial backing from the diocese’s newly approved grant from Episcopal Relief & Development.
In Apalachicola, for example, Trinity Episcopal Church was not damaged by Hurricane Michael, but some of its neighbors were hit hard by the storm, Heaney said. Since then, Trinity has offered a day care ministry to assist families with children who aren’t in school and need care while their parents are at work.
A variety of other ministries also will receive part of the grant money, including food pantries in communities struggling after the hurricane. Those ministries existed before the storm but are in greater demand now, Heaney said. The same goes for Suppers at Grace, a continuing ministry at Grace Episcopal Church in Panama City Beach that has grown to serve storm victims.
Hurricane Michael was “like nothing we’ve ever seen over here, and I hope we never see it again,” Fuller said, and she described the recovery as far from complete. “You can drive down every street and block and see houses that are still sitting there either with a tarp on or half caved in.”
She, her husband and their 12-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter rode out the hurricane while huddled in their home in Callaway, a Panama City suburb, and they feel fortunate for surviving. A tree crashed through the window of their son’s bedroom soon after the family had fled the room to retreat into a bathroom.
Though their house sustained little additional damage, some neighbors’ homes are a total loss. Fuller said local pride has helped the community pull through such turmoil, and she also credits her faith.
“Every day, every single day, I pray for strength and courage and wisdom, and then patience,” she said. “It’s definitely strengthened my faith a lot. It had to. I don’t see any other way I would have been able to get through this.”
– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.