Episcopal Relief: Stopping the spread of Ebola

Episcopal Relief and Development is helping to stop the spread of Ebola in Africa:

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, Episcopal Relief & Development’s local Church partners are leveraging their widespread presence and trusted reputation to alleviate suffering and contain the Ebola outbreak that has killed 1,427 people in West Africa since March 2014.
Partners in both countries are mobilizing local volunteers to promote accurate information about Ebola and distribute hygiene and sanitation supplies. In addition, the Church in Liberia is supplying food parcels for households in quarantined communities and providing basic protective equipment for health workers at local hospitals.
“The situation is extremely dire, due both to the severity of the disease and the difficulty in containing it,” said Abiy Seifu, Senior Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “People want to care for sick family members at home, they are afraid to go to the clinics because so many are dying and there is a great deal of misinformation about how Ebola is spread. Fear about the disease is making the outbreak worse, and we are aiming to combat this fear with accurate information and support for basic needs.”
Local development staff of the Episcopal Church of Liberia are working with government health staff in Bong County to distribute food items such as rice, cooking oil and canned meat to 500 people in four quarantined rural communities. Volunteers are delivering food and sanitation supplies to homes, and demonstrating correct mixing procedures for different concentrations of bleach water for hand-washing and cleaning. The supplies also include a hand-washing station made by installing a spigot in a covered five-gallon bucket, and a poster (see below) with accurate information about how to prevent Ebola and what to do if a family member presents symptoms of the disease.

You can donate here.

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Justice Dept. files suit against town for blocking Islamic center

145px-Allah1_no_honorific.pngThe US Justice Department has filed a suit against the town of St Anthony, Minnesota for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act passed by Congress in 2000. Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports:

The federal government on Wednesday sued the small north-metro city of St. Anthony, contending that its City Council violated federal law in 2012 by rejecting a proposed Islamic center. The lawsuit sprang from a controversy that echoes those that have flared in many U.S. cities when Muslims have sought to establish worship centers.

“An injustice has been done,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said at a news conference in Minneapolis. “I will not stand by while any religious group is subject to unconstitutional treatment that violates federal civil rights laws.”

The lawsuit alleges that the council’s decision to deny the Abu Huraira Islamic Center the right to establish a worship center in the basement of the St. Anthony Business Center violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act passed by Congress in 2000.

"Allah1 no honorific" by User:Ibrahim ebi - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Allah1.png. Via Wikipedia.

Napa church severely damaged in quake

Episcopal News Service reports on the earthquake damage to St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Napa.

While the outside of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Napa, California, looks perfect after the Aug. 24 magnitude-6 earthquake, the inside of the church is a different matter.

Organ pipes litter the chancel floor while others hang precariously from the organ loft, some bent like drinking straws. Right after the quake at about 4 a.m., when the Rev. Stephen Carpenter, St. Mary’s rector, and his daughter came to the church with flashlights to check for damage, all of the pipes were still in the loft.
Parish members have shoveled up the pieces of every single dish in the kitchen after the quake spilled them out of the cupboards. Back in the church, a mosaic of the Holy Spirit that had hung over the baptismal font since 1954 came off the wall. One large piece was found covering the font and the rest is in pieces on the floor of the nave. A Madonna statue on the church’s Mary Altar also broke when the shaking sent it tumbling to the ground.

St Mary's Facebook page has photos.

Contributions to help cleanup and restore the church may be sent to:
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
1917 Third Street, Napa CA 94559
(put earthquake fund in memo line)
PayPal link on website

From the local news station.

Alleged conflict at Duke Divinity School

dukediv.jpegDuke Divinity

Dozens of Duke Divinity School students and faculty gathered at the school’s convocation Tuesday morning to show support for the LGBTQ community after an alleged conflict at the school’s orientation.

Student Lizzie McManus-Dail said she asked a question at orientation regarding how to combat heteronormativity, which deals with gender separation, in classrooms.
She said that Richard Hays, dean of the Divinity School, responded he was concerned the question was raised about the LGBTQ community and read from the United Methodist Book of Discipline on homosexuality.

Letter from the Dean who writes to correct "regrettable and inaccurate impressions" and notes that "his remarks were "gravely misinterpreted."

Church's politics in one graph

Linked is the American religio-political landscape in a graph, provided by Religion News Service's Tobin Grant. He writes:

What are the political positions of religions and churches in America? This new graph maps the ideologies of 44 different religious groups using data comes from Pew’s Religious Landscape survey. This survey included 32,000 respondents. It asked very specific questions on religion that allow us to find out the precise denomination, church, or religion of each person.

In addition to explaining how to read the graph, Grant makes some observations.

It’s time to recalibrate expectations for clergy

Faith & Leadership's Call and Response blog looks at the question of expectations for today's clergy where the institutional model is full-time clergy, but the economic realities are part-time, bi-vocational, or unpaid. From Nathan Kirkpatrick's post:

Some denominations are finding their commitment to a “learned clergy” in conflict with a missional need to serve smaller congregations and underserved communities. The question becomes how much training can a denomination reasonably expect a part-time or unpaid clergyperson to have? If not a three (or four) year master’s degree, then what? What are the non-negotiable elements of that training, and what are the elements that would be nice but are not essential? Must training precede ministerial service, or could people be trained concurrently with their service? There are no easy answers. In many denominations, no one is happy with a compromise.

Likewise, congregations have difficult decisions to make.

Imagine that a church can only afford compensation equal to quarter-time employment (which, in most cases, means that the clergyperson has to find additional paid employment to balance his personal budget). What can that congregation reasonably expect of that clergyperson, and what is the work of ministry must laity assume? This will require renewed education about the calling and ministry of the laity (a clear good in all of this!), and it will mean -- and in some places, already does mean -- that some ministries will no longer happen. Prioritizing the pastoral workload will be a new practice required of vestries, sessions and personnel committees.

In many settings, denominations and congregations have relied on the goodwill of part-time, bivocational and unpaid clergy and have not recalibrated their expectations about ministerial role and work. That is an unsustainable solution. Now is the time for creativity, innovation and experimentation to adjust to what is increasingly the new normal for congregations around the country.

What are you thoughts and comments?

Is Ferguson an outlier?

Many people have speculated about the climate of Ferguson before the shooting of Michael Brown.

An NPR story by Joseph Shapiro looks at the high court fines and fees:

To understand some of the distrust of police that has fueled protests in Ferguson, Mo., consider this: In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.

A new report released the week after 18-year old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson helps explain why. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, says in its report that more than half the courts in St. Louis County engage in the "illegal and harmful practices" of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don't pay. The report singles out courts in three communities, including Ferguson.

The fact that Ferguson's fines and fees are so high, however, should not lead to the conclusion that this is only a problem here. Shapiro also reported in May on an NPR study on how the poor are paying the price throughout the court system.

FiveThirtyEight’s chief economics writer Ben Casselman believes that Ferguson isn’t a true outlier:

The protests, nearly everyone agrees, were about more than Brown, about more even than police violence. They were about Ferguson police being nearly three times more likely to stop black motorists, and nearly twice as likely to search them. They were about the unemployment rate for young African-Americans in St. Louis County being double that for young whites, and the poverty rate being more than three times higher. Just weeks before Brown’s death, workers demanding higher wages picketed in front of the same local McDonald’s that has since become a gathering point for protesters.

The protests were also about more than Ferguson. Because Ferguson isn’t an outlier; it is, at least for a large part of the country, the norm. The same fuel of poverty and disenfranchisement exists in similar communities from Los Angeles to New York. The spark just happened to come in Ferguson....

The St. Louis metropolitan area ranks as one of the country’s most segregated, with the southern and western suburbs overwhelmingly white and the northern suburbs and the city itself heavily black. In some North County cities, African-Americans make up more than 80 percent of the population.

Ferguson itself, however, is about two-thirds black and is largely integrated internally. It is not particularly poor. Its median household income is about $35,000, well below the national mark of about $50,000, but ahead of many neighboring communities. In the north end of the city, which features some large, handsome homes, household incomes are close to the national average. Nearly 60 percent of Ferguson residents own their own homes. Most of the city looks nothing like the tinderbox of poverty and segregation that Americans have come to know in the two weeks since Brown’s death.

That Ferguson is real. The city’s southeastern corner, isolated geographically from the rest of the city, is a “suburban ghetto,” as Swanstrom and a colleague labeled it in a Washington Post column last week. Canfield Green, where Brown lived and died, is one of several dilapidated apartment complexes where poverty and crime are both common. The neighborhood’s median income is less than $27,000, making it the eighth-poorest census tract in the state; 95 percent of its residents are black.

Supporting clergy in difficult calls

NECA.pngWalking With instead of Walking Away: Fourth essay in the Care for Clergy Series.This is the fourth essay in the Care for Clergy in Difficult Calls writing project. The Rev. Dennis Fotinos writes:

One model for ministering to clergy in distress that I find worthy of emulation is one I came to know about while serving in the Diocese of Texas. The ELCA Synod that was reasonably contiguous with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas had a policy which I felt is worthy of consideration by the Episcopal Church. It may be that the Lutheran Synod’s policy is simply the national policy for the ELCA. This policy has to do with clergy who are in distress or conflict and whose situation comes to the attention of the judicatory leadership. In those cases, the judicatory, (Lutheran bishop) assigns the pastor who is in a conflicted or crisis situation a chaplain who does not report to the bishop, and who is charged to maintain total confidentiality in relationship to their “charge”. This chaplain provides spiritual guidance and support throughout whatever subsequent process may ensue. This ministry is provided to all clergy in conflict or crisis no matter how heinous the actions/behavior of the clergy involved. I am aware of a much beloved senior Lutheran pastor who was charged and convicted of numerous counts of pedophilia and who has been sentenced to life in prison. From the time the allegations first emerged a chaplain was assigned who has walked with him throughout this journey through the courts and appeals, and final verdict, and sentencing, and who continues to minister to him in jail. Another chaplain was assigned to the pastor’s wife to provide her and their adult children with support and ministry. The family has also received psychological counseling to help them process this painful experience.

Most of us (clergy) would do this for our parishioners. It seems to me that we would/should do at least this much for our clergy colleagues who are experiencing a crisis…whether of their own doing or the result of other complex factors that are part of parish life.

In another situation, a Lutheran pastor was being attacked by some members of the congregation who were seeking to get rid of the pastor. Again, the Bishop assigned a chaplain to the pastor, and offered to assist with expenses related to professional training in addition to counseling for the pastor. In this case, the pastor availed themselves of the support, counseling, and training, and was able to engage support from lay members who were not aligned with those creating the conflict, and the pastor and parish worked through the conflict. Several of those who led the attack on the pastor ended up leaving the congregation, but, according to a consultant I know, the parish is much healthier as a result. In this case both the clergy and the congregation learned incredibly valuable lessons through the experience and came out much stronger and more effective in their ministries.

Find link to all the essays here.

10 Ways White Christians can respond to Ferguson

Troy Jackson writing at Sojourners gives 10 practical ways White Christians can respond to the events in Ferguson:

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Plunged into chaos

Virginia Theological School seminarian, Broderick Greer, writes about baptism and Ferguson at Huffington Post:

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Bridging culture and faith through art

Caravan is joint project between Egyptian and Western artists that seeks to bridge difference. At the National Cathedral in Washington DC this year's presentation is AMEN: A Prayer for the World. From the press release:

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India has a brilliant alternative to the Ice Bucket Challenge

If you have eyes, and an internet connection, then you've seen a video recording of someone getting ice water dumped over their heads in the past month or so.
This is a challenge dreamed up to raise awareness and money to fight ALS (formerly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), known as the Ice Bucket Challenge. Basically, once someone calls you out, you then have 24 hours to film yourself having a bucket of ice water dumped over your head, or you must pay $100 to a charity that funds ALS research, then you call out several more people.

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Bishop Tom Shaw releases a new statement

Bishop Tom Shaw, SSJE, has written a letter to the Diocese of Massachusetts, which he serves as bishop.

He writes:

As my date of retirement nears, I want to be in touch with all of you and to thank you for your continued expressions of care and concern. We have known since the beginning, when I was diagnosed with brain cancer in May of last year, that we are dealing with a difficult kind of cancer. We have been hopeful in the therapies we’ve pursued over these months, but we now know that for me there is no cure. At the recommendation of my medical team, I’ve decided now to pursue a course of treatment that will provide a good quality of life, though for how long, we can’t be sure.

He states also that he deeply appreciates the prayers and expressions of love that he receives daily.

The whole statement is available on the diocesan website.

Theology in Ferguson, as Michael Brown is laid to rest

Michael Brown, the unarmed 18 year old boy who was shot by a police officer sixteen days ago, is being laid to rest today, in an overflowing homecoming service. Last week, his stepfather requested that the protests cease for this one day, out of respect for the family, a request that seems to be being heeded by most.

Meanwhile, we continue to make sense of what we've been seeing, these past few weeks. Today, on CNN's On Faith blog, the Rev. Fred Robinson argues that the changes needed for the church, post-Ferguson, will run much deeper than we may realize.

To end situations that are happening in Ferguson will require more than a re-coloring of the pews.

Could it be that through persistent poverty and societal brokenness God is screaming at the church? Challenging us? Waiting on us?

Overcoming unjust systems through personal success and hard work (which has become the cornerstone of much of white, evangelical theology) is not God’s main desire: transforming structural evil is.

Read the whole article here.

Black clergy of Ferguson write a protest letter

The Huffington Post reports the National African-American Clergy Network wrote a letter, late last week, decrying the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Since then, it has grown exponentially, collecting signatures from folks as diverse as the head of the National Council of Churches to the head of the Seventh Day Adventists.

The statement reads, in part:

In light of the long and bloody trail of lynchings, deaths, and killings of African American youth from Emmett Till, to Trayvon Martin, to Michael Brown, and scores of others throughout our nation, we call for action, justice, and the transformation of our society,” the letter reads.

The statement calls for greater voter participation and replacing elected officials with others who “represent the preservation of life in ethnic communities where a disproportionate amount of killings, unsubstantiated sentencings, and jail time, are unwarranted means for perpetuating racism and bias against ethnic minorities.”

The whole article is here. You can read the statement from the clergy network here.

Can someone just shoot Jesus already?

Over at Medium, Dexter Thomas offers his Christological reflection on Michael Brown's shooting:

Maybe what we need is a 5'8, light skinned, Harvard-bound, star tennis player/violinist/poet that volunteers at the local pet shelter, bakes amazing blueberry muffins, speaks with a Mid-Atlantic accent, has a white name, who has never taken a photo with anything other than a thumbs up and a smile, and just recently published a groundbreaking cure for cancer in Science.

And we need him to die. Someone needs to find this boy, and kill him in public. It’s our only hope.

I’d offer myself, honestly. I would. But I got a D in Calculus once, so I don’t think I qualify. I’m not good enough...

I didn’t know Michael Brown, and I don’t know his family. I don’t know what happened on that day (only one of us does). But I do know that he couldn’t be the Christ that White America so desperately needed.

And they do need him. Perhaps more than anyone else in the world right now, they need Jesus.

But, even if we did get our Jesus — even if Michael Brown were that impossibly perfect martyr, even if we had that mythical savior black boy — it probably wouldn’t have helped.

After all, Jesus died an awful long time ago, and things didn’t quite pick up for us. Those who say they love him most do not love us, their neighbors. They reject and fear us. Somewhere, in between the Bible, the politics, and the sermons, the message has been lost.

So, friends: if praying is your thing, go for it. Keep it up. We need all the positive energy we can get. But I’m not sure it’s going to help.

Because if this is how we treat ourselves, I’m not sure if even God can save us now.

For the full article please visit Medium here. You can reach out to Dexter on Twitter @dexdigi

James Foley and prayer

As we learn more about the life and faith of James Foley following his execution at the hands of ISIS, Alana Massey at Religion Dispatches writes about Foley's prayer life:

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Diocese of West Tenessee clergy participate in ALS ice bucket challenge

As people across the country participate in the ALS "Ice Bucket Challenge", some Episcopalians are getting into the act. At 4:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21st,, the bishop of West Tennessee and a group of clergy from the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee gathered downtown on the steps of St. Mary’s Cathedral to dump water over their heads in support of the ALS Association’s ice bucket campaign.

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Sanctuary movement of the '80s springs to new life in Arizona

From the Arizona Republic:

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Book explores U.S. chaplain's ministry to Nazi criminals

From Religion News Service:

He was a minister to monsters.

That’s what Tim Townsend writes of Henry Gerecke, the unassuming Lutheran pastor from Missouri who shepherded six of the most notorious Nazis to the gallows in “Mission at Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis.”

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Giles Fraser: How to rid the world of religious violence

Giles Fraser notes in the Guardian that "the history of religious belief is a history of horrendous violence: intolerance of others, burnings and lynchings, religious wars in which millions have died, torture, persecution." He writes:

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The ministry of embattled Christians in North Korea

Doug Wallach, a student at Princeton University, writes at the Huffington Post about the plight and ministry of Christians in North Korea, who make up a tiny but determined portion of the country's population:

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Living in another's skin and our own

Ericka Hines has some excellent insights about biases and privileges, with suggestions about how we can learn to recognize and combat them. Tobias Haller reflects on what his experience of privilege teaches him.

She notes (shared with permission from Facebook):

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Food pantry feeds the soul and the body in Ferguson

The Rev. Steve Lawler says this the food pantry at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church was already important to the community before the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown but the violence that followed caused the pantry to shut down just when local residents needed them the most. But now the pantry in serving more people than ever.

Huffington Post:

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Faith, teens and digital media

Art Bamford of Fuller Youth Institute talks to danah boyd, author of the book It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. boyd is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft, a Professor at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

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Vicky Beeching comes out

Vicki Beeching is a rising star in the evangelical pop-music world. Her music is played in churches and on Christian radio all over the US and UK and she has told the world that she is gay and that God loves her just as she is.

Beeching is an Anglican. She is a regular commentator on the BBC and Sky News, is an Oxford-trained theologian, a PhD candidate, and has been influential in the Anglican Church’s debates on gender. She personally told Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that she was gay.

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Top five reasons why seminaries matter

Seminary education has entered a period of great change and uncertainty across the historic mainline denominations. Religious leaders are asking whether there are too many seminaries, whether they cost too much and whether seminaries are educating students to lead a church that is also in a period of change and uncertainty. There is even discussion, in some quarters, about a University of Phoenix, higher education for profit approach to theological education.

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The faith of a murdered war photographer

(Photo: Marquette University alumni magazine)

Daniel Burke of CNN has written a moving story of the faith of James Foley, the war photographer who was beheaded earlier this week by ISIS, the extremist movement that has made significant territorial gains recently in Iraq and Syria. It begins:

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Episcopal response to killing and unrest in Ferguson continues to unfold

Dean Gary Hall of Washington National Cathedral and young adults associated with the Union of Black Episcopalians are among Episcopalians responding to the killing of Mike Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by police officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent unrest it has triggered in Ferguson, Missouri.

Writing for On Faith, Hall says:

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Tutu calls for boycott of Israel

In an article for Haaretz, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called for an international boycott of the nation of Israel.

Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa writes:

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"Religious leaders in Ferguson are giving us hope"

Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Executive Religion Editor of The Huffington Post, published an article called "How These Righteous Religious Leaders in Ferguson Are Giving Us Hope". An excerpt:

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UPDATED: Bishop of Virginia issues statement on marriage equality

Barring a last minute stay from the Supreme Court, marriage equality will be the law in Virginia tomorrow, Thursday August 21. [UPDATE: The Supreme Court has issued a stay.] The bishop of the Diocese of Virginia this afternoon issued this statement and guidance:

August 20, 2014

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Who's being helped by the ALS challenge?

Newsplex.com's Stephon Dingle tells an ALS story in light of the Ice Bucket Challenge:

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Gaza's only Christian hospital struggles

Sam Hailes writes in Lapido Media on Al-Ahli, Gaza’s only Christian hospital. An excerpt:

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12 Ways to be a White Ally to Black People

Wondering what you as a white person can do to change the racism in the U.S."
The Root names 12 ways to be a white ally:

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Trayvon Martin's mother writes to Michael Brown's family, NCC adds support

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin has written to the family of Michael Brown

I hate that you and your family must join this exclusive yet growing group of parents and relatives who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence. Of particular concern is that so many of these gun violence cases involve children far too young.

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Conservatives make mockery of religious oppression

"How conservatives make a mockery of the oppression of religious minorities. Some Christians equate not getting their own way in the political sphere with brutal and unjust persecution." From The Guardian:

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Finding work as a young pastor is difficult

Young ministers face difficult search for stability in their chosen profession. The New York Times reports:

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Talking to kids about difficult subjects

FORMA, always a wealth of information, has put forward resources that can be used to discuss issues like Ferguson with children and youth in your faith community.

Written and compiled by Danielle Dowd, the diocesan youth missioner in the Diocese of Missouri (where Ferguson is located), she points out:

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Ferguson: what we heard from the pulpit

Yesterday, Ann Fontaine asked you what you heard from the pulpit. Preachers, what did you say?

Here are some of the responses we received.

The Very Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in St. Louis:

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Bishop David Russell, veteran in the struggle against apartheid, has died

Bishop David Russell, a long-time fighter in the South African church's struggle against apartheid and injustice, has died at the age of 75.

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A powerful moment in Ferguson

With the unending stream of horrifying images coming out of Ferguson this past week--the tear gas, the unrest, the arrests of reporters, and the curfews, you may have missed what happened there yesterday.

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Talking to strangers makes us happy

Suggestion: Go against instinct. Talk to that stranger at church. You both will likely enjoy it.

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A mother's white privilege

Manic Pixie Dream Mama has some thoughts on the white privilege she and her three sons enjoy:

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How are preachers preaching about Ferguson?

Did you preach on Ferguson today? Time Magazine reports on what preachers are saying:

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Bibles are back in the nightstand drawers

Religion News Service notes that the Navy has decided to put New Testaments and Psalms back in nightstand drawers after removing the due to complaints about preferential treatment for Christians:

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Buyer beware: Exploding caskets

Our parish is planning a panel discussion in the fall on end-of-life issues; hospice services, estate planning, living wills, spiritual preparations for death, etc. Perhaps we should add mention of exploding caskets to the program. Josh Slocum, a funeral industry watchdog, writes at the Washington Post blog:

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Sister Elizabeth Johnson accepts award, lambastes Catholic bishops

From Religion News Service:

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The Episcopal Church welcomes you ... to use the bathroom

Does your church offer a bathroom ministry? You may have never thought of it as such, but in New York City, this is a much appreciated outreach at Trinity Wall Street and St. Paul's Chapel. The New York Times reports:

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Keeping vigil in Ferguson

While the Governor and the Missouri Highway Patrol has taken charge of being the police presence to the neighborhoods, protesters, and journalists responding to the death of Michael Brown last weekend, the Ferguson police and the country district attorney continue to lead the investigation, so we are seeing some contradictory information from official sources. Meanwhile, Episcopalians locally and nationally continue to minister to the situation.

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