If your congregations are anything like the ones of the Café's newsteam, you're probably seeing a slowing down in programs as they gear up for Holy Week. The staff are shooting worried looks at the copy machines as they chug along producing piles and piles of bulletins. Clergy are locked in their offices trying to get a good start on all the sermons they'll be preaching. Communicators are making sure websites, newspaper ads and outdoor banners all have the correct service schedule times.
Maybe that's why there's a relative dearth of news nationally about the congregations of the Episcopal Church this week. With the House of Bishops meeting and the Diocese of South Carolina holding a special convention, there's been plenty of news - just not much that comes from the grassroots ministries we try to highlight in this weekly Saturday collection.
But there are three stories that are worth holding up this week. And all three seem to be linked by efforts of congregations to build bridges between groups in their local communities.
St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck NY is the new home of local Hispanic Resource Center. The center offers a broad array of services:
"Aside from the hiring center, the group provides a range of services such as English as Second Language classes, work-force development and legal assistance.
The hiring center opened in June 2007 in response to a U.S. District Court ruling that found Mamaroneck village officials and police had harassed day laborers seeking work.
When it opened, a small but vocal group of residents in the area complained to village officials; some even protested on the lawns of village officials and sat in lawn chairs across the street from the church staring as people walked in and out of the building.
Marrisa Senteno, a coordinator at the hiring center, said the mood in the neighborhood has turned around. What started off as hostility from neighbors has now led to friendships, she said"
The number of people making use of the center's services has grown from 10-15 initially to 40-50 a day three years later.
St. James’ Church of Hackettstown NJ has a new ministry being offered that is also teaching folks a new language so that they can communicate better with their neighbors. But in this case instead of Spanish, the classes offered by The Rev. Deacon Sheila Shuford are in Sign Language.
The free four week class is being free of charge to anyone in the community. Deacon Shuford is one of the two deaf deacons in the Episcopal Church and it is her hope that these classes will introduce people to the vibrant culture of the deaf community and teach the larger culture how to better interact with their neighbors.
And finally this week, on the other side of continent, an arts and multimedia show is attempting to introduce the people of New Mexico to the turbulent events and difficult relationships between native peoples and the Federal Government in the 1960's and 1970's.
The show, ‘Freedom of Information:The FBI, Indian Country, and Surveillance’ opens in Santa Fe in May. The connection with the Episcopal Church is through the family history of one of the shows curators:
America Meredith and Ishkoten Dougi are co-curating the show. Meredith’s father, Howard Meredith directed the Indian Office of the Episcopal Church in the early 1970s. Because of his role, Meredith’s father had FBI tails and his phone was tapped. When as a teenager, she asked her father about the early 1970s, he told her to look up his FBI file, using the Freedom of Information act, giving the show its name. Ishkoten Dougi, a New Mexico native and prolific artist, has recently dealt with the FBI, which has been investigating the brutal murder of his little brother.
The full story and additional background to this show can be found here on the Native Times website.