Malaria Awareness Day, April 25

In Angola, ERD has partnered with the Anglican Diocese of Angola in the Uige and Cunene provinces. Since the program began in 2006, more than 16,000 insecticide-treated nets have been issued and more than 388 community malaria agents have been taught to educate communities about malaria.

Episcopal Relief and Development, in partnership with Roll Back Malaria, endorses the Global Health Council's Malaria Community Statement on Africa Malaria Day 2007. The statement is signed by ERD and other organizations fighting the spread of the disease and raising awareness about malaria prevention. Please click here to read the full statement.

Further information on NetsforLifeSM is available here.

To make a contribution to Episcopal Relief and Development's Malaria Fund, please visit http://www.er-d.org or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, "Malaria Fund", PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Read it all at Episcopal Life Online.

Working together in Ghana

The Episcopal Church, Archbishop of Canterbury and The Anglican Diocese of Ghana work together to build a hostel to accomodate pilgrims to the Retreat Center at Accra and serve as a counseling center.

Read more »

Face to face with homelessness

The challenge is how to make the issue of homeless seem like more than an abstraction to kids who go to school in a wealthy suburb. The answer is to involve them, through service learning in the lives of the homeless and the people who work with them. Samaritan Ministries of Greater Washington and St. Andrew's Episcopal School show the way. Read the interviews starting on pages 1 and six of this pdf of In Step magazine.

Making a dent in food bank donations

Nationwide, food banks -- clearinghouses that distribute food donations to local charitable pantries and emergency shelters -- report receiving fewer donations in the form of imperfectly packaged canned and boxed edibles.

It is the down side of a drive in recent years by manufacturers and retailers for greater supply-chain efficiency. Toward that end, many food manufacturers began producing food in quantities more closely tailored to individual retail customers' needs. That in turn has reduced the amount of food that gets sold to retailers and ultimately returned to the manufacturers.

At the same time, new technology has helped eliminate production errors such as processing canned food without labels or producing an entire order of cereal boxes using upside-down text.

So reports today's Wall Street Journal (subscribers only). More:
In Phoenix, St. Mary's Food Bank is seeing about 15% fewer donations over the past year, says Executive Director Terry Shannon. St. Mary's, which bills itself as the world's first food bank, was established in 1967 by the late John van Hengel after talking with a poor woman who scavenged for dented canned food in grocery-store dumpsters. A creative character who dabbled in everything from advertising to driving beer trucks, he came up with the idea of having a central location for food-industry waste.

The concept is workable as long as the waste proliferates. But retailers are finding new avenues to sell damaged goods. Some grocery stores are putting dented cans in discount bins rather than sending them to the local food bank. Others are selling product into the so-called gray market where brokers sell unsalable groceries to discount stores, flea markets or "banana box" grocery stores, shops that sell salvage food packaged in old banana boxes.

Food banks of course are always happy to accept your cash donation, or your parish's steady cash donation.

Making a difference

While the the news is full of stories of our disagreements, Episcopalians are working to make a difference in our world. Anglican/Episcopal networks are active connecting people who want to use their gifts for creating a better world. Developing ways to provide food security for those who lack resources, providing treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, lobbying governments to enact just laws, working to stop global warming, volunteering to teach children and adults, offering technical skills for clean water and sharing technology are some ways people are busy and involved. Some networks are all volunteer, others have paid staff to track efforts and offer specialized organizational talents.
Here are just a few that might be of interest:

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation A Grass Roots Movement Supporting the Millennium Goals is not your typical development organization. In fact, its not a development organization at all. According to their web site: "We don’t build clinics and schools. We don’t collect money for projects. We don’t lobby politicians. EGR doesn’t do these things … we help everyone else dream them and do them with excellence. The organization fuels the movement. The movement transforms the Church and the world." The group offers connections, resources, ideas, worship and prayer to make the Millennium Development Goals a reality.

Beijing Circles is a resource for women of faith changing the world. This program forms circles - small groups of women - around the world working on issues that especially affect women's abilities to survive and thrive in the world of violence, poverty, and inequality for girls and women. The circles educate themselves on issues and connect with others around the world to make a difference in the lives of all people.

Episcopal Ecological Network (EpEN) helps the Episcopal Church in the USA to advocate and articulate protection of the environment and preserving the sanctity of creation. This network extends throughout the various congregations, Dioceses and Provinces of the Church and includes interaction with other Christian churches in the USA and around the world.

Episcopal Peace Fellowship is a national organization with local chapters across the United States. While we are affiliated with the Episcopal Church in America, we are an independent entity striving to work for peace in justice in our communities, our church, and the world.

Episcopal Public Policy Network connects more than 15,000 Episcopalians across the country, brings the positions of the Episcopal Church to our nation's lawmakers. It represent the social policies of the church established by the General Convention and Executive Council, including issues of international peace and justice, human rights, immigration, welfare, poverty, hunger, health care, violence, civil rights, the environment, racism and issues involving women and children. EPPN offers email action alerts for members to speak to the leaders of the US on issues of concern.

Prison Ministries offers support to volunteers and assigned chaplains working in jails and prisons. Visiting those in prison and bringing hope is one of the clear calls of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25.

The Network for Science, Technology and Faith" offers connections between and among the communities science, medicine, technology and faith.

Episcopal Relief and Development responds to human suffering around the world. The organization provides emergency assistance after disasters, rebuilds communities, and help children and families climb out of poverty. ER-D is a channel for giving and working to change lives. Opportunities to participate in Nets for Life - preventing malaria, to provide food security around the world and rebuild after disaster are just some of the programs.

This is not an exhaustive list of networks of care that exist to connect those who want to "do something" and those who seek support. There are many more depending on where one wants to invest time, talent and treasure. Loving God and our neighbors as ourselves through action is at the heart of this work. Check with a local diocese in your state or The Episcopal Church web site to find those who are working on areas of interest and concern.

The fight against hunger

Christians and persons of other faiths gathered this week at the National Cathedral to urge governments to end hunger.

The Christian Post reports:

“I think all Christian people have experienced the goodness of God and it is that experience of God’s goodness and care that sustains us and makes us want to reach out and change the world and help hungry people in serious ways,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, on Sunday.
...
“The reality is that we don’t need more than an additional $75 billion to meet all the goals in all of the countries by 2015,” said Salil Shetty, director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign, at the event.

Shetty was referring to the estimated $75 billion in additional development assistance needed each year from all the rich nations to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut global poverty in half by 2015. The U.S. would be responsible for about $25 billion.

“If the G-8 can’t find the money last week, then where did they find the $900 billion for arms sales,” he questioned to an applauding crowd. “If the G-8 could not find the money last week, then where did they find the $300 billion or more spent last year on Iraq alone.”

The U.N. Millennium Campaign director said grassroots Christian leaders are “so powerful” in the fight against hunger because politicians care about being re-elected and Christian citizens hold the power to vote them into office.
...
Temfwe told a story about a non-Christian community leader in Zambia who said to a fellow church leader while working together for the betterment of their communities:

“I didn’t know the church was interested in sanitation. I didn’t know that the church was interested in what kind of water we drink. I didn’t know the church was interested in what kind of roads are in our communities,” recalled the Jubilee Center in Zambia director. “Had you told me this, I would have become a Christian a long time ago.”


In a later report the Christian Post added:
Thousands of believers from different faith groups united with the common goal of eliminating world hunger at the famed Washington National Cathedral on Monday.

The second annual Interfaith Convocation on Hunger brought together pastors, rabbis, imams, and people of faith to call on Congress and the president to renew their commitment to end hunger.
interfaithhunger.jpg
“You can’t connect with God if you walk away from hunger or if you don’t take it seriously,” declared the Rev. David Beckmann.

I figure people of faith are not taken seriously, are not taken to be people of faith, if they pass to the other side of the road. Evangelism of those in need and those not in need has the same basis.

This Reuters report has more information on the legislative agenda of the group.

Economist Jeffrey Sachs is one of the few economists who believes world poverty can be stamped out. Here's a Vanity Fair story on him that's just appeared.

They did it "for the good of humanity"

In a day heavy with news of schism you may welcome this story on the, um, lite side:

A study in which teetotal Spanish nuns drank a regular half-liter of beer showed that beer may help reduce cholesterol levels, a group financed by the Spanish Beer Makers' Association said on Thursday.
...
The experiment did not appear to have won many new beer fans among the teetotal Cistercian nuns who took part, chosen on the basis of their steady lifestyle and balanced diet.
...
"We did it for the good of humanity," Sister Almerinda Alvarez told the newspaper El Pais.

Read it all here. Thanks for the link goes to Mad Priest.

Hands of Christ in a hurting world

Episcopal Churches continue to live into their ministries - being the hands of Christ in the world in the midst of global and local crises.

The Immigration Bill is stalled and may die in Congress leaving many immigrants in a limbo world of jobs needing employees, willing workers and burdensome laws.

A group of church leaders have begun a New Sanctuary Movement to house illegal immigrants facing deportation in churches across the country. Law enforcement officers generally do not enter church grounds to make arrests unless lives are at stake.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Long Beach, CA joined the New Sanctuary Movement to protect illegal immigrants facing deportation in churches across the country. Law enforcement officers generally do not enter church grounds to make arrests unless lives are at stake.
Last Friday, Liliana, who refused to give her last name, took up residence at St. Luke’s.... She has three small children who were born in the United States and are citizens, but she has been told she is ineligible for legal status because she entered the country with a fraudulent birth certificate from her native Mexico several years ago.

“We are not criminals or bad people,” she said in a recent interview. “We just want a way to work here and provide for our children.”

Read the article HERE

In Cave Creek, AZ, Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church offers a safe place for day laborers to wait for possible jobs in the booming construction industry and other emploment. According to The Arizona Republic real-life consequences are playing out at this northeast Valley church where immigrants go to find work.

Cave Creek officials are steeling themselves for a heated hearing Monday, when residents will revisit the practices at Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church. The Rev. Scott Jones, a former Miami accountant and business owner, arrives at his new job at Good Shepherd just as the debate begins.

"Doing ministry to the poor and oppressed in the world is a big part of my attraction to them," said Jones, who will be ordained at the church in July. The enterprise at the church has been a generally peaceful practice for workers and employers, and has been seen by many as a useful alternative to workers hanging out on streets.

"Generally, unofficially, the town has been very supportive for the reasons we helped get it started," said Father Glenn B. Jenks of Good Shepherd. "I think they feel it helps alleviate some of the problems in the community. It hasn't eliminated them, but it's helped make them better."

Jenks said that the people who object to the program usually do so because of their attitudes toward migrant workers in general.

"They would like to believe that if they can make life miserable enough here, people will go home," Jenks said. "They're mistaken in that notion. What they have gone through to get here has been, in many instances, so horrific and so difficult there's nothing you can do here to make it worse than what they left."


Read the article HERE
From the Norwell, MA, Mariner the story of mutual sharing of gifts:
A number of unique circumstances have combined over the past two years — circumstances involving two cousins who are both priests and who are both named Elizabeth — to inspire an upcoming trip that a group from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Hanover will embark upon this month to the Gulf Coast.
On the exact day that Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast at the end of August 2005, the Rev. Elizabeth Wheatley-Jones was hired as the new pastor of Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
As the storm hit, some other candidates for the position decided to back out, but when she was offered the job, Rev. Wheatley-Jones, feeling she had been called to serve in that place, at that time and at that church, took the job and got to work.
And there would be a lot of work to do.
For starters, the church building itself was completely destroyed in the storm.
About one year later, in the fall of 2006, Rev. Wheatley-Jones came to the South Shore, and paid a visit to her cousin, the Rev. Elizabeth Wheatley-Dyson, who at the time, was serving as interim pastor at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Cohasset.
During that visit, the Rev. Wheatley-Jones gave a presentation about Katrina and the storm’s aftermath to her cousin and her (Rev. Wheatley Dyson’s) Cohasset congregation.
After hearing the presentation, Rev. Wheatley-Dyson was inspired to organize a group from the South Shore to travel to the Gulf Coast to help out in some way.

Read the rest here HERE

The Charlotte Observer reports on Family Promise - a network of churches that help folks in need of transitional housing, part of a national program. It uses community resources and church volunteers to help families on the brink of homelessness get back on their feet.

Ben Hill and his church, Christ Episcopal Church, brought the nationwide program to Charlotte after he saw it in action at his brother-in-law's church in Memphis, Tenn.

"I was lamenting the fact that the kind of things we were doing in Charlotte to help the homeless were probably doing us more good than the people we helped," said Hill, board president of Family Promise of Charlotte.

"My brother-in-law, Bob Lassiter, took me to his church to see the program. I got some of my friends from different churches together, we talked about it, and we were able to start a Family Promise Network here."

Read the rest here.

Can a Vision Save Africa?

The Episcopal Church, and many of its dioceses and congregations, have made a very serious commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, which is a United Nations-backed effort to end extreme world poverty. In yesterday's New York Times, business columnist Joe Nocera's Saturday column (subscription required) is devoted to asking the tough question--can the MDG vision be achieved?

The column presents the competing views of Dr. Jeffrey Sachs (the leading economic power behind the MDGs) and his critics:

More than anything else — more even than the path-breaking work of the Gates Foundation — it has been Mr. Sachs’s ability to sell his vision that has caused wealthy philanthropists and large corporations to get behind the causes of eradicating malaria and ending poverty in Africa. He’s the reason George Soros gave $50 million to Millennium Promise, and why the organization has been able to raise over $100 million in its short life.

But that same vision, which is inexorably linked to malaria, but is much larger than that, has caused some mainstream economists to say that while Mr. Sachs means well, he is peddling a dream that will always be just that: a dream. “I think he is improving the lives of many people,” said Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University (and a contributor to The New York Times). “But what he is doing is much oversold.” Mr. Cowen does not believe that Mr. Sachs’s work in Africa will endure.

The question that confronts us this morning is, Who is going to turn out to be right?

. . .

Although Mr. Sachs insists that he has always been consistent in his approach — “I try to design strategies appropriate to the circumstances,” he said — most other people think his Africa strategy is radically different from anything he’s done before. Mainly, he says he believes that the West needs to spend huge sums of money to control disease, improve farming, create better schools and build infrastructure in Africa. And if that can be done, he believes, economic growth, and all the good things that flow from it, will become Africa’s lot at last.

Though he is a prodigious fund-raiser, even Jeffrey Sachs can’t wave his magic wand and gather the hundreds of billions of dollars it would take to build all the roads and schools and farms and hospitals that Africa so desperately needs. So what he has done instead is to pick poor rural villages — he’s up to 79 by now — in countries with relatively stable governments, and find corporations, foundations and wealthy individuals who will adopt them to the tune of $300,000 a year for five years.

There is no question that the efforts of Millennium Promise are making a difference in those villages. The schools are drastically better, and thanks to a new lunch program, with the grain provided by the village’s own farmers, students are eating better. Each village is given bed nets coated with insecticide, which are the best way to prevent malaria, and a Novartis medicine, Coartem, which has to be taken within a day or so of malarial symptoms. Cases of malaria have dropped significantly. Mr. Sachs’s agronomists at the Earth Institute, which he runs at Columbia, create seed that can adapt to the village’s usually arid soil, and they give all the farmers fertilizer. Sure enough, the crop yield has increased, in many cases, by four to five times.

That is what Mr. Cowen means when he says that Mr. Sachs is improving people’s lives. Plainly, he is. But those efforts, laudable though they are, will not eradicate malaria or reduce African poverty in any serious way. The real question is how to turn Mr. Sachs’s efforts into more than just a pilot program that temporarily helps a bunch of villages. How will it transform all of Africa?

Ultimately, Millennium Promise is hoping that the governments of these countries will pick up where the Fortune 500 companies leave off. But given Africa’s history, that is one serious leap of faith. “He doesn’t have a coherent theory by which his model can scale up,” Mr. Cowen told me.

Read it all.

So who is correct, Sachs or Cowen? Can the Millennium Villages be "scaled up"? And even if Sachs is ultimately wrong, isn't the effort worthwhile? It certainly has been for the 79 Millennium Villages he has funded so far. And, the pessimists have proven wrong about development in other regions of the world. After all, who would have predicted in 1975 that Moaist China would be where it is today?

MDG Sunday is July 8th

July 8th is the midway point in the United Nations' campaign to reduce extreme poverty in the world by 2015 through the Millennium Development Goals.

Materials to celebrate a special Millennium Development Goals Sunday in your parish include a complete worship service with sermon and prayers of the people, bulletin inserts and background information. Curriculum for children and youth are also included with PowerPoint presentations of MDGs and another with an MDG atlas from the World Bank. God's Mission in the World, a study guide provided by the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations was used for adult curriculum.

These materials are available for your use on July 8 or at any other time. They were prepared by the Diocese of Texas and can be accessed from the diocesan Web site.

Background on the Millennium Development Goals:

Millennium Development Goals are a set of targets established by the United Nations to cut world poverty in half by 2015.

The goals were established in the early 1990s by development experts who looked at the various problems that make and keep people poor. They came up with 8 targets which would enable most people to not only meet basic needs, but to contribute to their society in more productive ways. These targets are known today as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In 2000, most of the countries of the world re-affirmed their commitment to reaching these goals:

The 8 Millennium Development Goals
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

Learn More:
Episcopal Relief and Development

Millennium Campaign

United Nations
United Nations MDGs
United Nations Development Programme MDGs
MDG Progress Report 2006 (PDF)
MDG Development Indicators (Searchable Database)

World Bank
Youthink!: MDGs
Online atlas of MDGs


Street Pastors on Patrol

Street Pastors: local volunteers from churches are trained "to help those who have drunk too much or got into fights by getting them to taxis or the Nightbus, walking local people home, administering basic first aid or simply chatting."

According to eGovMonitor the Portmouth (UK) City Council has approved the Street Pastors. "They will work in teams of four, each wearing jackets and baseball caps emblazoned with the words 'Street Pastor' and will complement existing patrols of police officers and community wardens."

Twenty-nine people ranging in age from 18 to 70 have gone through the training course with topics ranging from personal safety, sex, relationships and child protection awareness to first aid and listening and mediation skills. Much of the training has been provided free of charge by many different agencies, demonstrating the widespread support for the scheme across the city.

"National statistics show that it makes streets safer and the scheme has enthusiastic support from the Safer Portsmouth Partnership."

Funding for the project has come from the Portsmouth Anglican Diocese, Safer Portsmouth Partnership, 'Seedbed' and the Police. Read it all here

It's World Refugee Day

The Episcopal Public Policy Network has the details.

Did you know that Sweden takes more Iraqi refugees than the United States?

Follow the EPPN link for suggestions on how to let your representatives in Washington know would you'd like done about it.

Prayers pay off

Prayers of gratitude multiply into blessings around the world.
United Thank Offering, gathers the prayers of women, men and children in contributions of money into Blue Boxes. Coins and bills are pushed through the slot of the little blue cardboard box each time a someone remembers to give thanks to God in his or her lives. These offerings result in the ability ot support mission at home and around the world. This year UTO approved approved 104 grants totaling $2,439,342.46

Many of the 2007 grants were given with the Episcopal Church's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in mind. For instance, the hospital-completion grant in the Diocese of Sialkot in Pakistan focuses on the goals of reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, Chapman said. A $50,000 grant to the Diocese of Banks and Torres in Melanesia will help build the Mothers Union Training and Resource Centre in Vanuatu, thus addressing the MDG of empowering women. A nearly $62,000 grant to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Jerusalem will support a health clinic and nursery hall in Ramallah to assist working mothers who need a secure place for their children to stay during the workday.

The MDG concern of reducing HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases was addressed by the $30,000 grant to the Cathedral Outreach Ministries in Bridgetown, Barbados in the Church in the Province of the West Indies. The money is meant to help renovate the old cathedral clerk's house to be used as a center for HIV/AIDS education and counseling.

The needs of immigrants and refugees were also a focus this year with grants going to efforts to care for and integrate migrants and refugees into the life of their communities. Such grants include $40,000 to Iglesia Espanola Reformada Episcopal to renovate its immigrant center in Oviedo, Spain; $8,400 to Exodus Refugee/Immigration, Inc. in Indianapolis, Indiana to provide professional English training, and $14,000 to the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Omaha, Nebraska in part to offer space to Sudanese refugees.


The committee approved 104 grants totaling $2,439,342.46. The average grant amount was $23,455.22. The two largest grants were $79,722 to the Diocese of Sialkot in Pakistan to finish a hospital and $68,000 to the Diocese of Alaska to build a new church for St. Augustine's congregation in Homer. The smallest grant was for $750 to the Diocese of Mississippi to start a Sunday school program at St. Mark's in Jackson.

Read the story here.

For more on how you can participate and information on the United Thank Offering click here

Presiding Bishop tells deacons to nag the church

Deacons are called to be the "nags of the church," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told the biennial Conference of the North American Association for the Diaconate (NAAD) on June 22 at their meeting in Seattle. According to reports by Kim Forman for Episcopal Life Online.

"As we look toward a third-millennium church and a renewed sense of mission," Jefferts Schori said, "I want to ask you deacons, and the rest of the church, about new ways in which deacons could be sent out."

Reminding them of their ordination vows, she said deacons are called to serve the poor, weak, sick, the lonely and those who have no other helpers and to interpret the needs and hopes of the world to the church.

The ministry of deacons, she explained, is one of urgency about the starving and homeless and also about "the full humanity and dignity of those in all sorts of prisons, whether legal ones, nursing homes or hospices, as well as the prisons we build through prejudice about race, gender, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, national origin and so many others."

Jefferts Schori asked the deacons to think about service to people "captive to a consumerist society" or "caught up in the rat race of jobs or shopping or keeping up with the neighbors" and about "forming communities of faith and transformation among co-workers or fellow commuters or soccer parents."

"Where is the good news going unheard?" she asked. "Who are the hungry in spirit? Whose needs and concerns and hopes are not being addressed?"


Read the report of the Presiding Bishop's remarks here

Priest ministers to youth, poor, imprisoned in Lagos

Nigerian Priest, Venerable Geoffrey Chukwuneye, Vicar, All Saints Church, Surulere, Lagos is a rallying point for people of different age groups and gender desirous of finding true happiness and blessings of God.

According to a story in All Africa, by Bonny Amadi, writing in the Lagos Daily Champion,

Chukwunenye does not just wait for people to come to him to seek the face of God but also devotes greater part of his time in searching for lost souls who are confined inside the prison walls, those walking the street as the wretched of the earth as well as people with various diseases and illness who may have given up hope.

The prison evangelism department of his church, hospital outreach and his poverty alleviation programmes have since become a beehive of activities where various food items, clothes, money, property and other items are assembled regularly for the less privileged and needy thereby passing a message that he that oppresses the poor, oppresses his God.


The article tells of how the Vicar develops leaders:
"An apostle of democratic leadership that provides the needs of the common man, this clergy of repute has been an advocate of transparent leadership and on the vanguard to see that the youths who are leaders of tomorrow are taken out of the streets not as political tugs (sic) but as major contributors to the development of our nations economy.

To achieve this, he ensures that special empowerment and training programme are regularly organised for youths to equip them for the challenges of times."


Read is all here

Katrina recovery work continues

Almost two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States, Episcopalians continue to arrive to help with recovery. Youth groups, seminarians, Episcopal churches and leaders spend time rebuilding homes and lives, physical and emotional. Although the media have moved on according to latest reports, churches and local groups have taken on the challenge to restore shattered towns and lives.

St. Mark's in Casper, Wyoming has partnered with St. Mark's in Gulfport, MS to offer material items as well as prayer support.

Bishop Marc Andrus' blog features Pilgrimage Journals from young Californians who have travelled to New Orleans to offer their skills and energy to the recovery efforts. Lily Moebes reports:

Coming here makes me hope that I hang onto the initial explosive emotions I felt while being there, and constructively turn them into productivity. I am really looking forward to coming home (yes, I know, even though the trip just began) as a San Franciscan 15 year old and finding ways of somehow incorporating all of these thing into daily life. Not bad for day one. I am really excited about the rest of the trip.

Read the rest of her journal entry here.

Tori Holt journals after a day of work and emotional experiences:

My qualms were soothed when I remembered the children. The school kids are simply inspiring. After struggling to comprehend really being here in New Orleans, I thought I would also have trouble connecting with them. I felt like I would have no way to relate… but this is no way to be. We’re here to help, and we are all fundamentally linked despite our vastly different lives. The kids and a few of our group’s volunteers ended up sitting around a table playing a question game. Each kid from NO was so eager to learn about our lives, and the volunteers were equally interested in the kids’ stories. We made a great connection, and it was electrifying. I left feeling reassured, loved, and embraced by another community.

Read her journal entry here

In September the House of Bishops will be meeting in New Orleans. Many church committees plan to meet in New Orleans or other Gulf locations this Triennium. They often plan to arrive before the meeting or stay following the meeting to work on recovery projects. Members of the committees, commissions, agencies and boards of The Episcopal Church stay at their own expense to do this work. According to Bishop Catherine Roskam of NY, " the Bishops' Choir and the Bishops and Spouses' Choir will cut their second CD in New Orleans. It will be called Wondrous Love and dedicated to the memory of Jim Kelsey. All proceeds will go to support the work in the Ninth Ward."

Giulianna M. Cappelletti, Postulant from the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, attending Virginia Theological Seminary, is interning in Bishop Jenkins' office. She writes at Bishop Jenkins' blog about her work this summer:

According to the most recent statistics from the Office of Disaster Response, nearly 240,000 of our brothers and sisters have been served to date through our various programs. This number in itself is impressive, but what has filled me with the most joy and hope has been the stories that I have heard from those to whom we are ministering.

Early last week, I spent time in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans at the St. Luke's Homecoming Center. While this Homecoming Center still offers computer access, recovery and rebuilding information, and a community meeting space for residents, the bulk of the programming at St. Luke's is focused on the needs of the children in the neighborhood. The St. Luke's Homecoming Center has been transformed into a 'sacred space for children'.

For information on how you and your group can be involved go to:
Diocese of Mississippi
Diocese of Louisiana

youtube has several videos by those who have travelled to the Gulf Coast. Here is one from a partnering church about Bay St. Louis, MS.

Monks and soliders join forces for healing

Monks of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) are joining forces with a member of the Massachusetts National Guard to help men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a safe place to heal. Episcopal Life Online reports,

"There is a tremendous need to help these folks," according to Capt. Jeffery Cox of the Massachusetts National Guard.

Cox, a clinical social worker with the Guard, offered his expertise and advice to the brothers of the Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to create a time of healing at the monastery specifically for members of the armed services who have spent long stretches away from home in war zones.

Cox has been deployed twice since 2003 and served in a combat stress company in Iraq in 2005-2006. He is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and the Episcopal Church Province 1 Coordinator for Episcopal Relief and Development. He works full-time as a contractor for the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, supporting seriously injured and wounded soldiers throughout New England.

The brothers reserved the first weekend in October at the monastery to offer a healing retreat for people returning from places of war.

Read it all here

More from Associated Press here

Catching glimpes of what's really important in life

A group of soccer-playing girls recently returned to the US from a trip to South Africa. What did they most want to talk about upon their return?

What they wanted to talk about most was not the elephant herd that surrounded their bus or the lion cubs they held. It was handing out 1,000 hot dogs to squatters' families, joining dozens of little boys in a field to kick around a rubber ball the size of a walnut, and sharing secrets with African girls their age. They had caught glimpses of what was really important in life, and they knew it, even if they didn't know what to do with what they had learned.
The parish of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Poolesville, Maryland is mentioned:
Their favorite place was Richmond, a dusty speck of a town with high unemployment between coastal Port Elizabeth and huge Johannesburg. Under the umbrella of a program started two years ago by St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Poolesville, the girls stayed two days to deliver food and play with local kids. Joanna Meyer-Glitzenstein, 16, recalled riding into the town and thinking, "Oh, my God, there's nothing here. The streets are empty. Where are all the people?"

She didn't have to wait long to find out.

Read more about outreach at St. Peter's here.

Read the entire Washington Post article here where you will also find links to blog entries written by the team members, and interviews with them.

New study on volunteerism

The Corporation for National & Community Service has released a new study of volunteerism in the United States. It shows a large decline in volunteerism in the last year, and also shows a wide difference in levels of volunteerism among different communities.

The Christian Science Monitor reports the study's finding of a large decline in volunteerism, with changing demographics a leading cause of the decline

More than a quarter of Americans spent some of their time lending a helping hand last year.

That good news kept the rate of nationwide volunteering at historically high levels: Some 61.2 million people dedicated 8.1 billion hours of service to schools; hospitals; and religious, political, and youth groups in 2006, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS).

The bad news is that the number of volunteers recently dipped significantly – by one third – from 2005.

A key reason: Nonprofits and other groups that rely on volunteers are having trouble retaining them.

"The demographics are such that we are poised to make this 30-year high get even better because the baby-boom generation is passing the traditional age of retirement," says David Eisner, CEO of CNCS. The group aims to raise the number of adult volunteers to 75 million by 2010.

"At the same time," he says, "our work is cut out for us because, nationally, the volunteer bucket is a bit leaky. We get a lot each year, but we lose a lot each year. We have to figure out how to plug those holes." Commuting time, education, and home ownership all play roles in determining how much time people are likely to spend helping organizations that need support, according to the CNCS's national study of America's top 50 cities based on census data between 2004 and 2006.

Other reasons for the decline include poor volunteer management, including the failure to make volunteers feel that their efforts are worthwhile:

"Our surveys show that the biggest hurdle to getting a volunteer to stay involved is that they felt ineffective in their use of time," says Rob Wallace, a spokesman for Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit public education organization that seeks to improve community environments. "Everyone is extremely busy today, so if they begin to feel their volunteer time is sucking the life out of them without giving them satisfaction, they get jaded and want to quit."

Often this happens because volunteer programs are not being run effectively, experts say.

"Most nonprofits … if they got a million dollar grant, they would put their CEO in charge of it," says Sandy Scott, spokesman for CNCS. "But at the same time they might have $5 million worth of volunteers at work but they are being run by an intern or busy receptionist. We are trying to change that."

More groups are now teaching nonprofit organizations how to help guarantee volunteer satisfaction in part by working with their busy schedules.

"We help them plan flexible projects for times that volunteers have free, or in geographical areas where they are already commuting to or that deal with such facts [such as] they don't have much money to get around," says Ariel Zwang, executive director of New York Cares, which helps 850 nonprofit agencies, public schools, and others create projects for volunteers.

And "compassion fatique" can also be a factor:

Compassion fatigue is one reason Dr. Erickson believes volunteerism has dropped.

"Our nightly news is riddled with very few good news stories. Wars, corporate and political scandals and ethical breaches have made us not only weary but also wary of others. So a "bunker mentality" has developed, where people keep to themselves and don't worry about anything but insulating themselves from the world and the latest bad news. We simply have to turn that around," she says.

People must constantly remind others that one person can make a big difference, says Cathy Lanyard, executive director of American Friends of Alyn Hospital in New York.

the study also found a large difference in volunteerism in different communities. Experts think that the differences can be explained by economics, community stability, local leadership and an intangible sense of community:

For example, in Minneapolis, where home ownership is high and neighbors stay connected, volunteerism is nearly 41 percent.

But in Los Angeles, where people spend more time alone in their cars than talking over the back fence, volunteerism is about 22 percent.

In Portland, Ore., where almost 90 percent of residents over age 25 have completed high school, the volunteer rate is nearly 36 percent.

In Riverside, Calif., where only 75 percent of people over age 25 have a high school degree, the number of folks willing to help for free is about 21 percent.

. . .

The levels of local, state, and federal financial commitment are key to making a city work well for volunteers, experts say.

"Volunteering doesn't happen in a vacuum," says Shawn Lecker-Pomaville, executive director of the Nevada Commission for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps programs. "It takes resources and oversight and management and public policies to support it. This state could do a lot more."

In the CNCS study, Las Vegas was ranked the lowest among the top 50 cities, having a volunteering rate of 14 percent.

It's crucial to develop a culture of connectedness, too. "Here in the Midwest, helping each other is just something we do," says Beth Erickson, a business consultant in suburban Minneapolis who volunteers at least twice a week at her church in St. Paul. "I have long surmised that we volunteer up here on the frozen tundra because our lives quite literally can depend on it," she says.

Read the entire Christian Science Monitor reort here.

Have you noticed a drop in volunteerism in your church and community? Any ideas for how we can turn this trend around?


‘More Cake, Vicar?’

On the lighter side of the news that's breaking today, an article about a novel way of fund-raising to support mission work in the developing world was published in Christianity Today:

"From carrot cake to Lincolnshire plum bread with marmite, bishops throughout the UK and the Anglican Communion have named their favourite cakes to help launch the ‘More Cake, Vicar?’ campaign – which is being run by the USPG: Anglicans in World Mission.

...Churches are being invited to bake and sell cakes to raise funds to help USPG support the vital work of Anglican churches in over 50 countries, from hospitals in Tanzania to house building in Chile.

...Archbishop [Rowan Williams] also said: ‘USPG continues to enrich the life of the Anglican Communion through its rootedness in the life of the Provinces. Its commitment to partnership and cooperation yields great dividends as together we share in God’s mission worldwide.’"

Read the rest here: ‘More Cake, Vicar?’ Campaign to Support Anglican Mission Abroad

Reflections of a missionary to Tanzania

Kirk and Leslie Steffensen just returned to the US after a two year mission in Tanzania. Kirk reflects on their return and the gifts to their family from being a missionary. From their homepage

While we were working in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT), we were lucky to work for the one Bishop in Tanzania that was willing to stand up against signing the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) letter cutting off ties with the Episcopal Church USA. Bishop Mhogolo gathered all of the DCT missionaries together to explain his position and told us that with all of the help that Africa needs, it is foolish to single out one organization for one sin. He said that no one in Africa asks the Red Cross, UNESCO, or the many governments that donate money if they have any homosexuals working on their staff. He also said that singling out homosexuality over adultery, greed ( i.e., corruption), and dependence on alcohol (all issues in Tanzania) was missing the point that we are all sinners and we are all forgiven.

Bishop Mhogolo emphasized that the important thing is developing partnerships. Our family helped DCT in many ways, through both of us teaching many students and my setting up two computer networks for two schools. But our family received many blessings in return. Our children learned life lessons that we could not have paid for at home. They are much more aware of the world around them, how lucky they were to be born into the situation they’re in, and how much other cultures have to offer to their understanding of life. (The kids couldn’t articulate that if you asked them, but you can see it in the ways that they’ve changed over the past year.)

Kirk concludes this entry:

And now that we’re back in the States, we will always have a piece of Africa and Tanzania in our hearts. We’re still unpacking our possessions, but after we finish with them, we’ll need to unpack our experiences and share them with our parish, our Diocese, and the other people that helped enable our mission journey. This lifelong partnership is one of the key points that Bishop Mhogolo makes when he talks about the ways missionaries help DCT. He says that we help in the ways that we can while we’re there, but that we help even more when we come home by spreading the message of partnership with Africa and by helping to recruit more missionaries and assistance, whether it is through active recruitment or by passive recruitment through witness of life in Africa.

Read all their family reflections here

Remembering Jonathan Daniels

The violent death of Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels' was remembered Saturday by 200 people who braved in 103-degree heat to honor the white seminary student who gave up his life to save a black teenage girl 42 years ago, according to a report in the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. A student of the Episcopal Divinity School, Daniels answered the call of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders for the church to become more involved in the struggle for civil rights. Daniels was killed on August 20, 1965 by a shotgun blast fired by an Lowndes County special sheriffs deputy at a small convenience store where Daniels and several other civil rights activists had gone following their release from the Lowndes County Jail, where they spent a week behind bars on charges related to a protest in Fort Deposit.

Episcopalians were joined Saturday by adherents of other faiths from throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, who paid their respect to Daniels and the civil rights cause under a blistering sun.

Jerry McGee of Destin, Fla., recited a Biblical passage about "giving your life for another," something Daniels did without question when he stepped in front of 16-year-old Ruby Sales to protect her and take the fatal shotgun blast.

"That's why I wanted to come here and honor him," said McGee. "He gave the greatest gift he could possible give -- his life."

The Rev. Polk Van Zandt of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Selma said Daniels has been given a "Black Letter Day," which sets aside a day each year to honor his memory.

Van Zandt said others given "Black Letter Days" include nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale and author C.S. Lewis, but added that Saturday's commemoration was "more than just about him."

"This is also about all the martyrs of Alabama," said Van Zandt, who alluded to honors bestowed Saturday on several others who were killed during the civil rights era.

Also included in the commemoration were four girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham and Viola Liuzzo, who was shot to death by Ku Klux Klansmen in Lowndes County a few months before Daniels was killed

.

Daniels was a native of Keene, New Hampshire, and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute. The VMI archives writes about Daniels in this way:

In August 1965 Daniels and 22 others were arrested for participating in a voter rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama, and transferred to the county jail in nearby Hayneville. Shortly after being released on August 20, Richard Morrisroe, a Catholic priest, and Daniels accompanied two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, to a Hayneville store to buy a soda. They were met on the steps by Tom Coleman, a construction worker and part-time deputy sheriff, who was carrying a shotgun. Coleman aimed his gun at sixteen year old Ruby Sales; Daniels pushed her to the ground in order to protect her, saving her life. The shotgun blast killed Daniels instantly; Morrisroe was seriously wounded. When he heard of the tragedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels."

In the years since his death, Daniels' selfless act has been recognized in many ways. Two books have been written about his life, and a documentary was produced in 1999. The Episcopal Church added the date of his death to its Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and in England's Canterbury Cathedral, Daniels name is among the fifteen honored in the Chapel of Martyrs.

And:
At VMI, the Board of Visitors voted in 1997 to establish the Jonathan M. Daniels '61 Humanitarian Award. The award emphasizes the virtue of humanitarian public service and recognizes individuals who have made significant personal sacrifices to protect or improve the lives of others. The inaugural presentation was made to President James Earl Carter in 2001; the second award was presented to Ambassador Andrew Young in 2006.

In addition, one of only four named archways in the VMI Barracks is dedicated to Daniels, as is a memorial courtyard.

The feast commemorating Jonathan Daniels is August 14

Here are two other remembrances: here and here.

A more personal and interactive giving experience

Social networking tools on the internet are providing new ways of giving and getting involved.

From the Wall Street Journal's "Young Money" series:

Some of the newer Web-based nonprofits, such as DonorsChoose and Kiva, are attractive because contributors say they allow them to connect directly with their recipients. Donors or lenders can hand over money directly to, respectively, teachers and students in urban public schools or individual entrepreneurs in developing countries, rather than sending a check that ends up with an abstract recipient.

"You can donate money to a charity, but it seems like it just goes into a pile and you never know what really goes on there," says Mr. Alamo, the Kiva lender. "With Kiva, you just pick someone out and lend to them directly and watch what they do and how they succeed. That was the main appeal."

Kiva, which started in the fall of 2005, has already drawn more than 89,600 lenders who have lent $10 million. Mr. Alamo's Kivafriends.org Web site has attracted about 600 members since it was launched in March.

Some older charities are grappling with how to best take advantage of social-networking sites. The Salvation Army, for instance, has had a MySpace profile for "Red Kettle," its online persona, since last year. But the site has only roughly 80 online "friends," or people who have linked to it. (By contrast, Kiva has some 7,000 online friends on MySpace.)

Read it all here.

Other networks mentioned in the article:
- change.org
- dosomething.org
- sixdegrees.org
- red kettle

Nets for life

Episcopal Relief and Development has had an important role in the distribution of hundreds of thousands of nets used to protect sleeping children and their mothers from contracting malaria. Episcopal Life Online has the full story.

Episcopal Relief and Development's (ERD) NetsforLifeSM malaria partnership is providing life-saving protection to children and families in 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The program is protecting close to 700,000 people, including mothers and vulnerable children who are most susceptible to contracting the disease.

The NetsforLifeSM partnership encompasses ERD and a number of private individuals and corporations including ExxonMobil Foundation, Standard Chartered Bank and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation. Christian Aid is playing a key role as well. The Episcopal Church's Millennium Development Goal Inspiration Fund supports NetsforLifeSM.

In its second year, NetsforLifeSM has distributed 328,708 long-lasting insecticide-treated nets in eight countries including Angola, Kenya and Zambia since June 2007. The program has trained more than 3,400 malaria agents, or community volunteers, who have reached more than 500,000 people directly with malaria prevention messages.

Read the full report here.

Day of Service in New Orleans

Don't let the quietness of the day with regard to the HoB fool you: the bishops have been very busy today. Episcopal Life Online covered bishops working at nine different recovery projects in New Orleans and several additional projects in other areas affected by Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

As fate would have it, there was some concern about a tropical system in the Caribbean However, the storm weakened and hit land well away from the Gulf areas in which the bishops were working.

From the story:

While the work done on September 22 contributed to the efforts of New Orleanians and Mississippians to rebuild their lives and their communities after the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September 2005, the day had other purposes as well.

Diocese of Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith, pausing from his work with Schori and others, said the past two days of meetings had brought the bishops "a lot of information to digest" and the work day was giving them "some breathing space to sort that through."

At a news conference the day before, Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray said he hoped that the Day of Service would be helpful in "interpreting the discussions within the context of mission." Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins said he hope the work day would show that "people of good will and faith stand for the dignity of humanity … [and] even in the midst of our disagreements we stand strongly for all of God's people."

After helping to measure and cut a piece of sheetrock at a home in the Gentilly neighborhood, Diocese of Olympia Bishop Suffragan Bavi Edna "Nedi" Rivera looked up at the people working together in the gutted house and said "there's nothing that's going to build community more than this."

The story touches on several different projects and includes comments from many of the participants. Read it all here. There is also a gallery of images from the day here.

Sheltering the homeless

Churches in the Fort Walton Beach, FL area offer shelter for the homeless when temperatures drop. The NorthWest Florida Daily News writes that this time around, they’re hoping more congregations will lend a hand.

"We definitely need more," said Lenore Wilson, a local homeless advocate who participates in the program. "What we really need is 14 churches!"

The current group of shelter providers are: First Presbyterian of Fort Walton Beach, St. Simon’s on the Sound Episcopal Church, Seventh Day Adventist Church of Fort Walton Beach, Gregg Chapel, Mary Esther United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach and Hollywood Boulevard Baptist Church.

"The churches are all we have," says Wilson. The area has no permanent homeless shelter.

That became clear to Shaun Ellis, youth minister at First Baptist, when the congregation offered its building as a shelter.

"It’s been a blessing to us," Ellis said. "The meal’s easy to do, and we have people donate blankets."

Ellis said the shelter program has softened his view of the homeless.

"A good number of these people are just looking for some help because they’re in a bad situation," he said, adding that serving the homeless is the duty of churches. "In my understanding of Scripture, that’s a mandate we’ve been given. If churches are not involved in that we’re missing the call."

Read it all here.

Gangs and God

With books like The Cross and the Switchbade, the story of young pastors ministering to gang members became a cliche many years ago. As the Christian Century reports in its cover story this month, however, there is some very good and important ministry occurring that is focused on gang members--and not just in urban areas:

At a recent gathering of ministers, I asked a colleague what was new at her parish. "I've been doing a lot with gang ministry," said Maria Edmonds, a pastor in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. "I'm trying to get gang members into the church. They're not accepted anywhere else. So I figure Jesus would have me spend time with them."

There are few images in our culture more frightening than that of the gang member: tattooed, armed, as likely to shoot you as look at you—as part of the member's demand for "respect." Millions of dollars are spent each year at the federal level and in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to combat gang activity and reduce gang-related violence. And as the North Carolina pastor found out, gangs are also a feature of life in many small towns.

How does the church minister to youths in street gangs and to neighborhoods marked by their presence? An even more daring question: Is there something the church can learn from the gangs? (There was a time when the church was reviled as dangerously antisocial because it provided an alternative identity and community.) From urban to rural settings, I found that churches are meeting the challenge of the gangs in a variety of creative ways. While political leaders and police focus largely on suppressing gangs, church groups are stepping in to offer alternative forms of community.

The article tells the story of how a variety of churches have engaged with gang members--often developing a gang ministry by accident:

Pastor Edmonds wasn't seeking to start a ministry to gang members. She just listened, and found out that it was what kids in Franklin needed. Franklin is located in traditionally poor Appalachian country, though an influx of retirees and vacationers is changing the economic picture. The town's location between Atlanta and Charlotte makes it a highway stop for drugs as well, especially crystal meth.

Early in her tenure as associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, a teenager in the church named Robin died unexpectedly while alone at a friend's house. He was the leader of a skateboarding gang named Toxic. The circumstances of his death raised questions. Church members pondered what went wrong, what they could have done differently and what they should do now.

Skateboarders are considered a public nuisance in Macon County. Skating on public property is against the law—a law that skaters break because they see their activity as no different from, say, playing basketball. But police in Franklin stop a kid simply for carrying a skateboard; he might, after all, be about to break the law.

Edmonds had been trying to befriend the skater kids before Robin's death, bringing Kool-Aid to the places where they skated. After his death, she sensed their need for a special kind of service. She purchased a skateboard that Robin had put on layaway, placed it at the front of the sanctuary and encouraged the kids to write farewell messages to Robin on it. A hundred kids came for the unconventional memorial service. Many were in a church sanctuary for the first time. Edmonds let them tell their stories and "have their time with this space." She spoke briefly to them about heaven as a skate park.

Edmonds suggested that the church offer the kids a space to gather and skate. Ramps were built, a church member with an insurance agency supplied the needed coverage, and The Walk was born. Once a week kids gather to skate, hang out, eat together and take part in a devotional. Since this is Appalachia, many kids need further help: clothes, dental care and adult guidance—and parishioners provide it. Some kids count on The Walk for their most regular meal of the week (one brought his elderly grandfather for the food the night I was there). Some almost always wear sweatshirts and T-shirts from The Walk—they don't have many other clothes. This year, for the first time, kids from The Walk will graduate from high school on time. Others have found permanent jobs with the church's help.

Read it all here.

ERD receives malaria grant

From Voice of America, Episcopal Relief and Development is one of five organizations that have received the first Malaria Communities Program grants, part of a $30 million initiative created under the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to support the efforts of communities and indigenous organizations to combat malaria in Africa.

A senior U.S official has said the Malaria Communities Program draws on the power of the faith-based and community partners serving on the frontlines to prevent and combat the disease. Jay Hein, Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives told VOA that engaging these groups that have local connections and have built trust greatly heightens the prospects for long-term success.

Hein was speaking after the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) on Friday in Washington, announced the first Malaria Communities Program grants.

The organizations that received grants are Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Lutheran World Relief, Episcopal Relief and Development, Minnesota International Health Volunteers, and Christian Social Sciences Commission.

The whole thing is here.

California fires bring out caring hearts

A roundup of items on the response of religious groups to the California fires:

ERD to help those displaced by Southern California wildfires

Christian charities mobilise as California fires rage

Muslims pray for rain to put out California fires

Faith-based responses

San Diego diocese shelters evacuees from raging wildfires

From the San Diego Diocesan homepage (to follow the links for giving follow the homepage link just given)

Letter from the Bishop

Dear Friends in Christ,

We anticipate over 500,000 people being evacuated and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed. The fire fighters and aid workers are doing extraordinary work. Please pray for the safety of those battling the fires both in the air and on the ground.

What is becoming clear is that we will be involved in a twofold endeavor: a short-term ministry of housing and hospitality helping those who have been displaced through evacuation; and long-term assistance in recovery and rebuilding. We are currently matching requests for housing with those who have offered that blessing. Please see buttons at right.

To prepare for the long-term recovery work, we have established a 2007 Fire Relief Fund. Individuals can make a gift to our fund. Please add: “Fire Relief” to the memo line. Please send gifts designated for that fund to:

The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego
2728 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103

Donate Online »
In addition, we are collecting gift cards to Target, K-Mart, Walmart, and JC Penney to be distributed to people who have lost property. These gift cards can be sent to the above address to the attention of Canon Howard F. Smith. Any communication of these requests would be a blessing.

Faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes
Bishop of San Diego


CHURCHES HOSTING EVACUEES:
All Saints' 651 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista 760-726-4280
Christ Church 1114 Ninth St., Coronado 619-435-4561
Good Samaritan 4321 Eastgate Mall, San Diego 858-458-1501
St. Andrew's 890 Balour St., Encinitas 92024 760-753-3017
St. Andrew's 4816 Glen St, La Mesa 91941 619-460-7272
St. Dunstan's 6556 Park Ridge Rd., San Diego 92120 619-460-6442
St. James 743 Prospect St., La Jolla 92037 858-459-3421
St. Michael's, 2775 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad 92018 760-729-8901

Ministers' Manifesto

Fifty years ago this coming week, eighty white members of the Atlanta clergy issued a manifesto on race relations. Read fifty years later, the manifesto seems mild. At the time, however, it was viewed as a revolutionary document that resulted in more than one death threat.

NPR has good coverage of this anniversary:

Fifty years ago, 80 white pastors in the Atlanta area took on segregationists in the Deep South. They took their beliefs to the front page of Atlanta's main newspaper in 1957, issuing what has been called The Ministers' Manifesto.

It was an appeal for peace during the debate over integration, when the state of Georgia weighed closing its schools rather than allow black and white children to attend them together. The ministers issued their statement on Nov. 3, 1957, after mobs had partially shut down Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

Lynn Neary speaks with retired United Methodist Bishop Bevel Jones, who helped write the manifesto, and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder and president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, about the historic document's impact.

Jones says his parishioners weren't surprised by the manifesto because he had been "preaching on the issue," though they were "curious" about the tactic. "But I got some awfully, awfully hot letters from the public and some phone calls," he adds.

Lowery was in Mobile, Ala., at the time. "We were very much aware of what had happened in Atlanta because all of us were traumatized by what had happened in Little Rock. So when these ministers in Atlanta spoke out, it was a breath of fresh air.

"Considering the environment and the times in which they issued a statement, it was a bold statement," Lowery says.

Read today, the manifesto sounds "mild and extremely cautious," Lowery says. "But at that time, it was a strong statement and we welcomed it for we needed leadership from the church."

The statement never explicitly condemned segregation, but nevertheless it had a "sobering and calming effect on people across the South," Lowery says.

Read it all here. Read the manifesto here.

Sadly, another group of local pastors — mostly Baptists and Pentecostals — issued a statement defending segregation a year and a half later. The Atlanta Journal ran it on the front page on March 25, 1959. It can be found here.

From pastor to executive

For many urban churches, a social ministry naturally moves beyond feeding the homeless to offering housing and jobs to the neighborhoods they serve. Yet, few seminaries offer the clergy the coursework they need to be succcessful at this ministry. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania hopes to fill this gap:

Pastor T.L. Rogers, head of a mid-sized church in suburban Maryland, calls himself a "closet developer."

"One thing that makes my heart beat is the smell of drywall. I love to look at something and see what it can become," says Rogers, who led his Hyattsville, Md., Baptist church in renovating a strip mall in the late 1990s. The church sanctuary is now a former Soap-N-Suds dry cleaners, the church administration office inhabits a former Domino's Pizza and a former Duron Paint store is now the church fellowship hall.

Having completed that project, Rogers and his congregation are thinking even bigger: "We want to reach out into the community," he says. They recently purchased a restaurant, which they plan to tear down, next to their church. In its place will be an adult charter school offering vocational training and English-as-a-second-language classes to local residents, many of whom are recent immigrants.

But for Rogers, whose advanced degree is in Bible studies, meeting with bank executives is sometimes a challenge. "Finance is a whole different language. They use acronyms I've never heard of," he says. "As pastors, the toughest thing for us to admit is when we don't know something." When Rogers met Sidney Williams, a pastor and venture capitalist fluent in the languages of both faith and finance, he saw "how things should be done. I realized I needed more than a Finance-101-level understanding."

Moving development-minded pastors from good intentions to executive ability is the purpose behind a new Wharton executive education program for pastors and other faith leaders. The program is spearheaded by Wharton management professor Bernard Anderson and Williams, who is the founding CEO of EKOS Ministries, a Fort Washington, Md.,-based consulting group that assists churches with development projects. "There have been many efforts encouraging clergy to engage in real estate and economic development, but I cannot identify a program focused on equipping pastors to function in an executive role, and that's what this one aims to do," says Williams, formerly a partner in a venture capital fund that invested in urban businesses.

This involvement in economic development is not new to the Church:

Read more »

Relief response to Bangladesh cyclone

Episcopal Relief and Development launches an appeal for financial support to support its aid to the victims of the recent cyclone that hit Bangladesh

As of today [19 Nov] 7 million people have been uprooted and reports say the death toll may reach as high as 10,000. In the worst affected districts, the low-lying coastal regions, 90 per cent of homes and 95 percent of rice crops and prawn farms were obliterated by the 150 mph winds, which generated a 20ft tidal surge that swept everything from its path.
...
To help people affected by the Cyclone in Bangladesh, please make a donation to ERD’s “Emergency Relief Fund/Bangladesh Cyclone” online at http://www.er-d.org/, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development “Emergency Relief Fund/Bangladesh Cyclone” P.O. Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Church Times has a good story with photos.


The Miniature Earth

If you could express what the world would look like if it were a community of only 100 people, what would it look like? This is the idea of The Miniature Earth, to help us easily understand the differences in the world.

Click here to learn what the Miniature Earth looks like.

The web site

There are many types of reports that use the Earth’s population reduced to 100 people, especially in the Internet. Ideas like this should be more often shared, especially nowadays when the world seems to be in need of dialogue and understanding among different cultures, in a way that it has never been before.

The text that originated this webmovie was published on May 29, 1990 with the title “State of the Village Report”, and it was written by Donella Meadows, who passed away in February 2000. Nowadays Sustainability Institute, through Donella’s Foundation, carries on her ideas and projects.

Donella Meadows' original "State of the Village Report" may be found here.


The text used here has been modified. The statistics have been updated based on specialized publications, and mainly reports on the World’s population provided by The UN, PRB and others.

The Miniature Earth website was first published in 2001, since than it has been seen by more than 2 million people around the globe and linked by more than 20.000 websites.

This is the third version of the project.

The Miniature Earth is also found on YouTube.

December 1 is World AIDS Day

Last week, based upon improved statistical sampling, the UN downward revised its estimates of the number of persons with HIV/AIDS. The New York Times picks up on a more important finding that stems from the correction:

Ignore the fuss over the news last week — the United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency admits to overestimating the global epidemic by six million people. That was a sampling error, an epidemiologist’s Dewey Defeats Truman.

Look instead at the fact that glares out from the Orwellian but necessary revision of the figures for earlier years. There it is, starkly: AIDS has peaked.

New infections reached a high point in the late 1990’s — by the best estimate, in 1998.


However, it is not time to relax:
More than three million annual new infections in 1998, or an estimated 2.5 million for 2007, “is not a particularly happy plateau,” said Dr. Robert Gallo, a discoverer of the AIDS virus.

Dr. Mark R. Dybul, the Bush administration’s global AIDS coordinator, added: “I don’t think it radically shifts our thinking, at least not for 5 to 10 years. We still need to prevent 2.5 million infections, we still need to prevent 2.1 million a year from dying.”


Some other disturbing observations:
It’s still not clear why southern Africa was hit the hardest. There are theories — migratory mine labor, less circumcision, perhaps a still-undiscovered genetic susceptibility.

But the southern Africa explosion has not repeated itself as the virus moved on into Asia’s much greater populations. It has hit very susceptible pockets, like the red light district of Calcutta, but seems to have stalled in them.
...
[The disease] can also lull its hosts into acting foolishly again; that has happened in San Francisco and Germany, Dr. [Paul] De Lay [director of monitoring and policy for Unaids] noted, where new infections are ticking up again as young gay men revive the bar scene of the 1980’s.

The Anglican Communion News Service has several posts today on the initiatives of the Anglican Communion in the battle against AIDS:

Read more »

Starving the food banks

Food banks are an important hunger ministry, but according to a story in the New York Times, they are facing food shortages caused by shifts in supply and demand, and the way food markets handle their surpluses are wreaking havoc on their ability to feed the hungry. The market forces creating the shortages are being wrought by rising energy prices and housing costs. Even the subprime lending problems may be contributing, said one source:

“It’s one of the most demanding years I’ve seen in my 30 years” in the field, said Catherine D’Amato, president and chief executive of the Greater Boston Food Bank, comparing the situation to the recession of the late 1970s.

Experts attributed the shortages to an unusual combination of factors, including rising demand, a sharp drop in federal supplies of excess farm products, and tighter inventory controls that are leaving supermarkets and other retailers with less food to donate.

“We don’t have nearly what people need, and that’s all there is to it,” said Greg Bryant, director of the food pantry in Sheffield, Vt.

“We’re one step from running out,” Mr. Bryant said.

“It kind of spirals,” he added. “The people that normally donate to us have less, the retailers are selling to discount stores because people are shopping in those places, and now we have less food and more people. It’s a double, triple, hit.”

The Vermont Food Bank said its supply of food was down 50 percent from last year. “It’s a crisis mode,” said Doug O’Brien, the bank’s chief executive.

For two weeks this month, the New Hampshire Food Bank distributed supplies reserved for emergency relief. Demand for food here is up 40 percent over last year and supply is down 30 percent, which is striking in the state with the lowest reliance on food banks.

“It’s the price of oil, gas, rents and foreclosures,” said Melanie Gosselin, executive director of the New Hampshire Food Bank.

Ms. Gosselin said household budget squeezes had led to a drop in donations and greater demand. “This is not the old ‘only the homeless are hungry,’” she said. “It’s working people.”

Complete article here.

An Episcopal church makes local giving easier

St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Virginia earns some attention from the Washington Post

The church's annual alternative gift fair opened last weekend with two days of shopping at the Founders Building in downtown Leesburg, and the campaign will continue by phone and on the Internet through Dec. 31. Since its inception in 2004, the event has raised more than $47,000 for Loudoun County charities.

The concept is simple. Shoppers browse a list of 13 local charities and the services each one can provide for a donation of $10, $25 or $50. Then the shopper makes a donation in the name of a friend or family member, either for one of those amounts or an amount of their choosing.

Details about the donation are written on small certificates printed on card stock. The gift-giver tucks the certificate into a holiday card, and the alternative gift is ready for giving.

Leesburg resident Christine Andary and her husband, John, came across the alternative gift fair by chance.

"We had gone down to the [Leesburg holiday] parade and weren't even aware of the gift fair beforehand," Christine Andary said Saturday. "We're really big on trying to do business locally and to try to do donations locally . . . so we thought it was great."
...
The fair generated more than $14,000 over the weekend, and organizers hope to reach $30,000 by the end of the month.

Read it all here.

Read more about the concept at the St. Gabriel's homepage.

"I made a difference"

Angela Hill writes in the Anglican Journal:

Hilda Shilliday is no typical overseas volunteer; she is 77 years old, but like many others she has always wanted to help people abroad.

“When I was 16, I wanted to be either a medical missionary or a Shakespearean actress. Now I am wondering how old Lady Macbeth was,” said Ms. Shilliday, a retired public health nurse.

After being told she was too old to work in Africa, Ms. Shilliday met a Friends of Mengo Hospital (FOMH) volunteer who had just returned from Uganda. The people behind this Victoria-based, non-profit organization had just the place for the upbeat and energetic Ms. Shilliday: the Mengo Hospital HIV/AIDS clinic.

The clinic, referred to as the counselling department, is one of the programs supported by FOMH donations and volunteers.

On Sept. 28, Ms. Shilliday arrived for a two-month stint in Kampala, and got down to work, easing pressure on the overworked staff. On busy days, the clinic can see over 125 patients, with only three clinicians, six nurses, and five counsellors.

Read it all.

Management skills for ministry

Recognizing that management challenges face the church and church-run charities, the Roman Catholic Church sponsors a program on management at Boston College. The New York Times had an interesting profile of this program yesterday:

For the last four years, Wendy Samuels has worked in a remote village in Jamaica for Mustard Seed Communities, a Roman Catholic nonprofit group that helps disabled children.

The work is both rewarding and heartbreaking. But some of the most difficult moments came as she managed well-meaning staff members who did not always do their jobs properly.

“If someone is not performing their job, how do you deal with it when there is still so much to be done?” Ms. Samuels said. “I kept wondering, How do you manage persons in a third-world country who work for a charitable organization?”

The quest for an answer led Ms. Samuels to Boston College, a Jesuit institution here, where she is one of seven students in a new graduate program intended to teach management principles to leaders of churches and religious nonprofit agencies.

The program was born out of the idea that the Roman Catholic Church needs employees who can both minister to the faithful and ensure that organizations and churches are managed well.

“This is not about turning the church into a business, or making sure it’s managed like any other institution in corporate America,” said Thomas H. Groome, a theology professor at Boston College who founded the program. “It’s about employing good business practices that enhance the mission of the church.”

Professor Groome, who is also director of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at the college, added, “We want to train people to manage with sensitivity and a commitment to the values of our faith community.”

The program offers a master’s degree in business administration combined with a master’s in pastoral ministry. Students can also obtain the pastoral ministry degree with a concentration in church management.

Jeffrey L. Ringuest, associate dean of graduate management programs at the college, said, “If you think of the size of some religious organizations and their total value, they cry out, I think, for professional management skills.” Professor Ringuest said the program would “help charities and churches advance their mission without having them be worried about their finances and ensure the organization is running smoothly.”

Read it all here.


Integrating medicine and ministry

A priest, a rabbi and Muslim were all practicing medicine one day.... It sounds like a joke, but it isn't. The American Medical News describes how an Episcopal priest, a rabbinical student and the president of a mosque integrate their faith, their ministries and their medical practices.

Spirituality and medicine frequently meet, often in unexpected places. Medicine puts us in touch with the limits and possibilities of our mortality, and how we make sense of life puts us in touch with our deepest spiritual longings. Many physicians are also in some way religious or spiritual, and anecdotal evidence suggests that this helps them in their care of patients.

Some take the next step and bring together their practice of medicine with ordained or lay ministry with intriguing results. Here are three stories:

Priest and surgeon:

Daniel Hall, MD, MDiv, MHSc, finished residency this year and is an assistant surgery professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

He is also ordained in the Episcopal faith and is a priest in residence at First Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh. The Episcopal and Lutheran churches recognize each other's ordained clergy. He preaches every fifth Sunday, and on other Sundays he reads Scriptures or leads prayers. He also is involved in adult education there.

Dr. Hall sees his pastoral and theological training as assets and wants to integrate them into his medical practice. He is conscious of the ethical issues raised by offering to pray with patients or to discuss their spiritual beliefs. But his goal is to help patients come to terms with serious illness, not to convert them.

"There are appropriate concerns," Dr. Hall said. "With the unequal power in a patient-physician relationship, it could be a coercive situation."

Rabbi and medical student:

Eleanor Smith finished five years of rabbinical training and was a rabbi for seven years before becoming a student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. On schedule to graduate this spring, she is going through the matching process for an internal medicine position and then hopes to specialize in oncology. Ideally, she would like to split her time between the synagogue and academic medicine.

"My experience in the rabbinate prompted me to go to medical school," Smith said. "I see it as an enhancement of my rabbinate."

While working as a rabbi, Smith said she had "crazy thoughts about going back to school. I had an increasing conviction that what clergy do and what doctors do are intimately related, though their body of knowledge is so disparate."

Mosque president and pediatrician:

Hafizur Rehman, MD, studied medicine in Pakistan, did a residency back home in Kenya, then did a pediatric residency in the United States before opening a practice in Bay Shore, N.Y. He also is a senior pediatric attending physician at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center and Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, and an active leader in the Muslim community. Dr. Rehman is president-elect of the Islamic Medical Assn. of North America, president of the Council of Mosques and Islamic Organizations of Nassau and Suffolk counties and president of the Masjid Darul Quran in Bay Shore, the largest Muslim congregation on Long Island with 1,000 members.

As a pediatrician he appreciates the Koran's references to a child's birth and conception.

"The Koran goes into quite a bit of embryology," Dr. Rehman said. "It talks of that in spiritual depth -- God's way of continuing life and the existence of humanity. How a single sperm and egg grows into a fertile piece of flesh. How the bones are covered with muscle. As a pediatrician, that is fulfilling to me."

Read: American Medical News: Body and soul: When faith guides a doctor's vocation.

Beijing Circles promote change

The Beijing Circles movement will meet February 25-29, 2008 in the Chapel of Christ the Lord at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City as part of a series of regional gatherings to introduce the Beijing Circles Resource and allow practice using it. According to Episcopal Life Online:

The gathering, which coincides with the annual session of the United Nations for the Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) that brings together thousands of women from all over the world, will include reflection time, introduction to and practice with the resource, as well as presentations and interactive work.

"This is an opportunity to take advantage of the many side events being held in conjunction with the UN meeting, while providing the opportunity for us to practice using the Beijing Circles process to build solidarity with others and see appropriate solutions to issues women face around the world," said Susanne Watson Epting, editor of the Beijing Circles Resource.

Beijing Circles are a tool which can help us educate ourselves and one another about the issues affecting women globally and then to advocate within our church and the world to bring about positive change.

To find out more and to register for the meeting click here.

Food around the world

Time Magazine is running a photo essay that shines a spotlight on affluence vs. hunger. In each photo, a family stands before a table spread with all its food for the week. Each family comes from a different country, and the essay illuminates the differences among the haves, the have-somes and the have nots. You can see which cultures lean most heavily on convenience foods; which face the most arduous preparation, and which don't have much to work with in the first place.

Captions on the photos reveal how much each family spends on their weekly meals as well as their favorite foods or family recipe. For instance, in Japan, the family spends about $317 a week. In Chad, the family spends about $1.23 a week.

But the numbers only begin to tell the story. The photo essay is excerpted from Peter Menzel's 2005 book Hungry Planet, and you can view the Time excerpt here.

Homeless people's stories

A new book published in Canada presents the experience of the homeless in that country in their own words. The collection was the brainchild of Cathy Crowe:

"Crowe is a street nurse and homeless activist who has worked with Toronto’s homeless population for the past 18 years. She also co-founded the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee (TDRC) in 1998, which promptly declared homelessness in Canada a national disaster. Most recently she has received the Atkinson Charitable Foundation Economic Justice Award, and works from a base at Sherbourne Health Centre in downtown Toronto.

Crowe had an epiphany while watching the reports on television of the ‘Ice Storm Disaster’ of January of 1998. She describes quite poignantly how she decided to take a leave from her job as a street nurse to go and help out with the disaster. And then the light dawned: ‘I realized that the images on television that had moved me were the daily, hellish circumstances of homeless people’s lives. . . . Homelessness is a man-made disaster.’ What Crowe also realized was that people did not respond to the homelessness disaster in the same way they do to a natural disaster.

Dying for a Home is an anthology of the stories of 10 (11 including Crowe) homeless activists many of whom resided in Tent City – a squat on a piece of land near the Toronto waterfront from 1998 to 2002. Tent City existed for almost five years and at its peak there were almost 100 people living there.

The contributors to this anthology talk about their lives and the trajectory that brought them to Toronto and then homelessness. They also share their hopes and dreams of having a home and the frustration they feel with governments who remain blind to their plight."

Read the rest here.

2400 lunches

The Signal of Santa Clara Valley:

By 10 a.m., the room at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newhall was busy with volunteers of all ages putting together meals of all kinds.

At a table, one woman put together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Near a rows of chairs, another woman lined up paper bags decorated by local Girl Scouts to drop snacks into.

It was the fourth Thursday of the month, which meant the volunteers from St. Stephen’s and The Church of Hope ELCA in Canyon Country would gather to prepare lunches to take to the HIV and AIDS patients at the Los Angeles County Hospital and USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The group of roughly 10 church members have been preparing lunches for over five years.

Initially, the luncheon project was started 20 years ago by a Los Angeles synagogue looking to help the poor and homeless.

Later on, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, which St. Stephen’s is part of, joined the program of preparing and delivering lunches.

Read it all here.

I am the rich

As an excellent example of the change in focus now occuring in evangelical circles, check out a very insightful essay by Heather Koerner at Boundless, a webzine for twentysomethings published by Focus on the Family:

It's struck me over the last few weeks: I am "the rich" that the Bible talks about.

I have heard pastors and authors say it before but, for some reason, it never stuck. To me, "the rich" conjured up pictures of Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey or Warren Buffett. It's "the rich" who own those million dollar homes on the coasts. Or who live in that certain neighborhood in my town. Or who shop at those stores where nothing ever goes on sale.

. . .

But I was wrong.

I was reminded of this by Randy Alcorn, author of many books including Money, Possessions and Eternity. Alcorn points out that if you and I have sufficient food, decent clothes, live in a house or apartment and have a reasonably reliable means of transportation, we're among the top 15 percent of the world's wealthy.

That challenges my perspective. After all, I had all those things when I considered myself a "poor as a church mouse" college student. If you had told me then that I was wealthy, I would have probably laughed. But all I could see were those immediately around me. Just as a 6'5" NBA player may feel comparatively short, we may feel comparatively average, less than average or even poor.

But our wealth perspective is skewed. The fact is that 6'5" is tall. And the fact is that most of us are rich.

Even the average Christian teenager in America, who has about $1,500 in disposable cash income each year, makes more than 80 percent of the people on the earth.

Read it all here.

North Carolina and Botswana

The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina has entered into a companionship relationship with the Diocese of Botswana.

The News Observer, a local North Carolina newspaper has a long article that discusses the significance of the relationship between the dioceses:

[In] the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, one of the most liberal in the nation, a new experiment is taking shape. Last week, Bishop Michael Curry and the Anglican bishop of Botswana signed a historic companion partnership agreement.

It will enable members of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, stretching across 39 Piedmont counties, to work with their Anglican counterparts in Botswana on youth programs, medical missions, day-care centers, schools and university chaplaincy programs.

The article continues with a brief history of the controversy that is found at present in the Anglican Communion, and then concludes by stating that the Diocese of North Carolina's stance on the issues is not seen as something that should block its ability to work alongside Anglicans in Botswana:

"The crisis is far from over, and it's not clear what may happen at the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, when leaders of the Anglican Communion gather in England this summer. One thing is clear: The diocese of North Carolina is not backing down. At last week's convention in Greensboro, delegates approved a resolution asking the national church to support the full inclusion of gays and lesbians and to encourage the development of liturgies to bless same-sex unions.

That didn't seem to bother Bishop Mwamba of Botswana. During a convention speech, he received enthusiastic applause when he said, 'Let us beware of excommunicating each other here on Earth, for we shall find in heaven we are still bound together at the table of Christ's love -- Archbishop Akinola sitting next to Gene Robinson.'"

Read the rest here.

The ENS reporting on the same story can be found here.

Innovation in fighting world poverty

The Economist has a fascinating new approach to fighting poverty that has worked well in Latin America and now is being used in New York:

MENTION globalisation and most people think of goods heading across the world from East to West and dollars moving in the other direction. Yet globalisation works for ideas too. Take Brazil's Bolsa Família (“Family Fund”) anti-poverty scheme, the largest of its kind in the world. Known in development jargon as a “conditional cash transfer” programme, it was modelled partly on a similar scheme in Mexico. After being tested on a vast scale in several Latin American countries, a refined version was recently implemented in New York City in an attempt to improve opportunities for children from poor families. Brazilian officials were in Cairo this week to help Egyptian officials set up a similar scheme. “Governments all over the world are looking at this programme,” says Kathy Lindert of the World Bank's office in Brasília, who is about to begin work on similar schemes for Eastern Europe.

Bolsa Família works as follows. Where a family earns less than 120 reais ($68) per head per month, mothers are paid a benefit of up to 95 reais on condition that their children go to school and take part in government vaccination programmes. Municipal governments do much of the collection of data on eligibility and compliance, but payments are made by the federal government. Each beneficiary receives a debit card which is charged up every month, unless the recipient has not met the necessary conditions, in which case (and after a couple of warnings) the payment is suspended. Some 11m families now receive the benefit, equivalent to a quarter of Brazil's population.

In the north-eastern state of Alagoas, one of Brazil's poorest, over half of families get Bolsa Família. Most of the rest receive a state pension. “It's like Sweden with sunshine,” says Cícero Péricles de Carvalho, an economist at the Federal University of Alagoas. Up to a point. Some 70% of the population in Alagoas is either illiterate or did not complete first grade at school. Life expectancy at birth is 66, six years below the average for Brazil. “In terms of human development,” says Sérgio Moreira, the planning minister in the state government, “Alagoas is closer to Mozambique than to parts of Brazil.”

. . .

As well as providing immediate help to the poor, Bolsa Família aims in the long run to break this culture of dependency by ensuring that children get a better education than their parents. There are some encouraging signs. School attendance has risen in Alagoas, as it has across the country, thanks in part to Bolsa Família and to an earlier programme called Bolsa Escola.

The scheme has also helped to push the rate of economic growth in the poor north-east above the national average. This has helped to reduce income inequality in Brazil. Although only 30% of Alagoas's labour force of 1.3m has a formal job, more than 1.5m of its people had a mobile phone last year. “The poor are living Chinese rates of growth,” says Aloizio Mercadante, a senator for São Paulo state, repeating a proud boast of the governing Workers' Party.

Look hard enough and it is also possible to find businesses spawned by this consumption boom among the poor. Pedro dos Santos and his wife Dayse started a soap factory with 20 reais at their home in an improvised neighbourhood on the edge of Maceió, the state capital. With the help of a microcredit bank, they have increased daily output to 2,000 bars of crumbly soap the colour of Dijon mustard. Nearby, another beneficiary of a microfinance scheme has opened a shop selling beer, crisps (potato chips) and sweets.

Read it all here.

What do you think?

What to do when things go wrong?

There are numerous misconceptions about the way society at large, and relief agencies in specific, ought to respond to large-scale disasters. The mistakes are outlined in a lecture by Michael VanRooyen, the director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

From an article in the Harvard Public Health "NOW" online:

"Providers of humanitarian relief often make incorrect assumptions about the vulnerabilities of disaster victims and how they may behave in an emergency, VanRooyen said during a December 17 lecture in Snyder Auditorium as part of the 2007-2008 Public Health Preparedness Speaker Series sponsored by the Center for Public Health Preparedness.

'We propagate [many incorrect] public perceptions by sending inappropriate services, clothing, and food,' he said. Responders need to take a clearer and more self-critical look at the aid provided and be willing to challenge the humanitarian aid 'industry' and to find better ways to serve people, he added."

Citing specifics, the article leads up to the example of the international Tsunami relief effort in late 2004 and early 2005 by pointing out:

While the public perception is that disasters bring out the worst in people, the opposite is usually true, he said. "Looting is the exception, not the rule," said VanRooyen. "People usually reach out to help their neighbors"

And while many believe that local people are helpless, the truth is that local people usually are the real heroes, doing most of the rescue work long before foreign aid workers arrive on the scene, he said.

VanRooyen was especially critical of efforts to send clothing, food shipments, and medical equipment to disaster-hit areas. Most clothing, for example, is often inappropriate, unneeded, and may end up being sold in the marketplace, reducing demand for locally produced clothing, forcing factories to close, and putting people out of work. "Giving things that are not asked for is a big problem," he said.

A sidebar to the article lists twelve myths and/or common misconceptions about disaster relief.

The bottom line seems to that the best strategy is to provide the financial resources to allow people on the scene to respond as appropriately to the specifics of the situation as possible.

Read the full article here, plus the sidebar list here.

Making economics relevant again

David Leonhardt, who writes a column on economics for the New York Times just conducted an interesting exercise. He surveyed economists and "asked which economists were managing to do influential work on the crucial questions facing modern society. Who, in other words, was using economics to make the world a better place?"

Leonhardt's survey revealed a "runaway winner": the "group of economists who work at the Jameel Poverty Action Lab at M.I.T., led by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, were mentioned far more often than anyone else." Here is his explanation of what the Lab is all about:

Ms. Duflo, Mr. Banerjee and their colleagues have a simple, if radical, goal. They want to overhaul development aid so that more of it is spent on programs that actually make a difference. And they are trying to do so in a way that skirts the long-running ideological debate between aid groups and their critics.

“Surely the most important societal question economics can help answer is why so many people are crushingly poor and what can be done about it,” David Romer, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said. The macro issues (like how to build a democracy) remain maddeningly complex, Mr. Romer noted. But thanks in part to the poverty lab, we now know much more about how to improve daily life in the world’s poorest countries.

The basic idea behind the lab is to rely on randomized trials — similar to the ones used in medical research — to study antipoverty programs. This helps avoid the classic problem with the evaluation of aid programs: it’s often impossible to separate cause and effect. If aid workers start supplying textbooks to schools in one town and the students there start doing better, it could be because of the textbooks. Or it could be that the town also happened to hire a new school administrator.

In a randomized trial, researchers would choose a set of schools and then separate into them two groups. The groups would be similar in every respect except for the fact that one would receive new textbooks and one wouldn’t. With a test like this, as Vinod Thomas, the head of independent evaluation at the World Bank, says, “You can be much more accurate and much more clear about the effect of a program.”

The approach can sound cruel, because researchers knowingly deny help to some of the people they’re studying. But what, really, is the alternative? It’s not as if someone has offered to buy new textbooks for every child in the world. With a randomized study, you at least learn whether your aid money is well spent.

. . .

Mr. Kremer and two other economists, in fact, did the textbook experiment — and found that textbooks didn’t improve test scores or graduation rates in rural western Kenya. (The students were probably too diverse, in terms of preparation and even language, to be helped by a single curriculum.) On the other hand, another randomized trial in the same part of Kenya found that treating children for intestinal worms did lift school performance. That study has led to an expansion of deworming programs and, as Alan Krueger of Princeton says, is “probably improving millions of lives.”

Mr. Banerjee estimates, very conservatively, that $11 billion a year — out of roughly $100 billion in annual development aid worldwide — could be spent on programs that have been proved to work. Unfortunately, nowhere near $11 billion is being spent on such programs. “Right now, we don’t have a lot of things that have been taken up by the policy world,” he said. “But the policy lag is usually substantial. Now that we have a lot more results, I expect that in the next 10 years we will have a lot more impact.”

Mr. Banerjee and Ms. Duflo may not be a modern-day Keynes or Friedman. But they have still managed to do something rather profound. They have brought together the best of the new economics and the best of the old.

Read it all here. The Lab wesite can be found here.

March Gladness

The brackets are set, the NCAA tournament bids are out -- this year Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation invites you to add a little purpose to your picking. We call it March Gladness.

March Gladness combines two of our favorite things -- Making Poverty History and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Here's how it works:

Like your regular NCAA pool, you fill out your tournament bracket -- picking each game in the field of 65 right up to the championship game. Like your regular pool it costs a little to get in. Like your regular pool, the people who do the best picking the games win the pot.

Here's where Madness turns to Gladness:

*Instead of an entry fee, there is a small donation ($10).

*Along with your bracket(s) you designate a nonprofit (must be an official 501(c)3 whose work contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals that you will be picking for.

*Instead of the winners taking home the pot, all money raised will be given to the designated MDG-related organizations.

Everyone has fun and it's all for a great cause -- God's mission of global reconciliation and making poverty history!

Entries close at tip-off of the first game on Thursday, March 20 (the play-in game is not included). You can enter as many times as you like, but entries will only count if an entry donation is received for each bracket.

Finally, this is about having fun while raising money to help people who need it the most. The more the merrier! Forward this to everyone you know ... let's see how much money and awareness we can raise for Making Poverty History!

For more information on the Millennium Development Goals and the movement for God's mission of global reconciliation, check out the EGR website at www.e4gr.org.

United Methodists join effort to form local free clinics

The United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries is exploring a partnership with Volunteers in Medicine, a nonprofit organization that has helped to create 61 community-based and volunteer-staffed free medical clinics in the United States in an 11-year period.

The role of the mission agency will be to work with congregations and other community-based organizations to build incentive and capacity for the free clinics that are marked by a "culture of caring." Many of the volunteer doctors, nurses, and technicians are retired.

Bishop May said that a pilot partnership clinic project will likely be in Texas, the state with the highest percentage of uninsured people—some 25.2 percent.

Volunteers in Medicine was founded in 1994 by Dr. Jack B. McConnell, the son of a Methodist pastor, after his own retirement. The first clinic was opened on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, serving uninsured persons, many African Americans, who work in the local tourist industries.

Read about it here.

See also: Ekklesia: US church urged to put justice in healthcare before charity.

Good Friday fast or feast

Michael Kinman, the executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation, has written a reflection on Christ's self-giving of himself for the world and posted it this Good Friday:

"Poverty and privilege have at least one thing in common -- they are both about choice, or lack of the same.

This first struck me most powerfully during my first trip to Ghana several years ago. I only had to be there a few days when I realized that my most valuable possession wasn't my laptop or my camera ... but my American passport. With it I had the choice whether to stay or to go. Whether to make a life there or leave and make a life elsewhere.

The privilege of choice that my wealth and education and other aspects of my (white) American life bring infuses every corner of my life. I can choose where to send my children to school. I can choose what kind of car to drive, what neighborhood to live in. I have chosen what kind of education I wanted and have chosen and continue to choose what kind of career I want.

My whole life has been and continues to be an embarrassment of riches of choice. Even the everyday choices ('Do you want fries with that?') when cast against a world where nearly 1,000,000,000 people go to bed hungry every night speak to the extreme privilege of choice I take for granted.

So I have the privilege of choice. I cannot escape it. Do I feel guilty about it? What now?

What word does Christ speak to me?

That word comes crashing through in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2 -- one of the most beautiful lyrics ever written. And it speaks of the events of today -- Good Friday -- in just these terms. Christ, the second person of the holy and undivided Trinity, was in the position of the most extreme privilege. Christ had the power of divinity -- talk about extreme choice! Christ could do anything.

And look at what Christ did.

Christ let go.

Christ let go of the privilege of choice. He saw that privilege not as something to be grasped, but emptied himself -- and even after emptying himself into human form, he continued to give up the privilege of choice and became obedient to the point of death ... even death on a cross."

Read the rest here.

Religious response to credit shortage

Patrick Hynes, writing at Ekklesia, reports on some of the ways that groups in Britain are attempting to respond to the turmoil in the international financial sector:

"The much publicised ‘credit crunch’ refers to the way loans and other forms of credit are becoming difficult or more expensive to obtain. This crisis may bring harder times for us all, individuals and businesses alike. But access to credit has always been a daily problem for people who are poor, as they are often denied fair finance due to a lack of collateral. The notion of collateral, where property is used to secure a loan, ensures the poor will always be poor.

With no collateral there is no chance of a loan, the means to self-employment and therefore to own something as basic as a shelter. Someone needs simply to break through this vicious cycle of poverty, and thus enable people to earn a dignified living for themselves and their families."

As a result of the conditions described above, over the past decades, an international movement called "micro-finance" has developed to make small loans to individuals in the developing world who might not otherwise have access to the credit they need to start small businesses. After giving examples of how micro-finance works, and describing the challenges facing the movement at the moment, he reports on an organization that is attempting to respond:

Oikocredit is a simple solution to a big problem, but turning faith into hope for others is a tough challenge. The scripture guidance is simple enough: “To do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” . However a recent study found that people, even with deeply held convictions, find it hard to put their money where their values are.

“When it comes to choosing where to save most ethical consumers don’t live up to their principles”. The report’s author, Professor Alex Gardner said: “While they regularly recycle and are happy to pay more for ethical products, like Fairtrade coffee and organic food, they ignore their basic values when it comes to their banking choices.” Professor Gardener identified several main reasons: partly the complexity of money matters and apathy, but also that we are very attached to financial returns when we are privileged to have savings.

The question of how to make best use of resources is clearly challenging to us all. One possible danger is that we leave it to others, perhaps even to institutions to act collectively on our behalf.

Read the rest here and if you're interested, follow the links to find more information on these sorts of programs.

The last wish of Martin Luther King

Taylor Branch, the historian of the civil rights movement, has a must read discussion of how Martin Luther King'needs to be remembered in today'sNew York Times:

A certain amount of gloss and mythology is inevitable for great figures, whether they be George Washington chopping down a cherry tree, Honest Abe splitting a rail or Dr. King preaching a dream of equal citizenship in 1963. Far beyond that, however, we have encased Dr. King and his era in pervasive myth, false to our heritage and dangerous to our future. We have distorted our entire political culture to avoid the lessons of Martin Luther King’s era.

He warned us himself. When he came to the pulpit that Sunday 40 years ago, Dr. King adapted one of his standard sermons, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” From the allegory of Rip Van Winkle, he told of a man who fell asleep before 1776 and awoke 20 years later in a world filled with strange customs and clothes, a whole new vocabulary, and a mystifying preoccupation with the commoner George Washington rather than King George III.

Dr. King pleaded for his audience not to sleep through the world’s continuing cries for freedom. When the ancient Hebrews achieved miraculous liberation from Egypt, many yearned to go back. Pharaoh’s familiar lash seemed better than the covenant delivered by Moses, and so the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness. It took 40 years to recover their bearings. Dr. King has been gone 40 years now, but we still sleep under Pharaoh. It is time to wake up.

. . .

We must reclaim the full range of blessings from his movement. For Dr. King, race was in most things, but defined nothing alone. His appeal was rooted in the larger context of nonviolence. His stated purpose was always to redeem the soul of America. He put one foot in the Constitution and the other in scripture. “We will win our freedom,” he said many times, “because the heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.” To see Dr. King and his colleagues as anything less than modern founders of democracy — even as racial healers and reconcilers — is to diminish them under the spell of myth.

Dr. King said the movement would liberate not only segregated black people but also the white South. Surely this is true. You never heard of the Sun Belt when the South was segregated. The movement spread prosperity in a region previously unfit even for professional sports teams. My mayor in Atlanta during the civil rights era, Ivan Allen Jr., said that as soon as the civil rights bill was signed in 1964, we built a baseball stadium on land we didn’t own, with money we didn’t have, for a team we hadn’t found, and quickly lured the Milwaukee Braves. Miami organized a football team called the Dolphins.

The movement also de-stigmatized white Southern politics, creating two-party competition. It opened doors for the disabled, and began to lift fear from homosexuals before the modern notion of “gay” was in use. Not for 2,000 years of rabbinic Judaism had there been much thought of female rabbis, but the first ordination took place soon after the movement shed its fresh light on the meaning of equal souls. Now we think nothing of female rabbis and cantors and, yes, female Episcopal priests and bishops, with their colleagues of every background. Parents now take for granted opportunities their children inherit from the Montgomery bus boycott.

Read it all here.

World is 'on course' for halving extreme poverty

Forbes:

Most countries will fall short of nutrition, health, education and other global development goals established in 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) said today [April 8].

This year marks the halfway point between when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set when they are due, in 2015.

Although the world is 'on course' for achieving the first MDG goal of halving extreme poverty, this progress is 'uneven' as Sub-Saharan Africa is falling far short, the IMF/WB Global Monitoring report found.

Meanwhile, the world is struggling to meet goals for reducing child and maternal mortality, primary school completion, nutrition and sanitation. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are falling especially short in these areas.

Read it here.

Adding to the cost of nutrition are substantial increases in the price of grains. Paul Krugman explains why prices have increased:

First, there’s the march of the meat-eating Chinese — that is, the growing number of people in emerging economies who are, for the first time, rich enough to start eating like Westerners. Since it takes about 700 calories’ worth of animal feed to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef, this change in diet increases the overall demand for grains.

Second, there’s the price of oil. Modern farming is highly energy-intensive: a lot of B.T.U.’s go into producing fertilizer, running tractors and, not least, transporting farm products to consumers. With oil persistently above $100 per barrel, energy costs have become a major factor driving up agricultural costs.

High oil prices, by the way, also have a lot to do with the growth of China and other emerging economies. Directly and indirectly, these rising economic powers are competing with the rest of us for scarce resources, including oil and farmland, driving up prices for raw materials of all sorts.
...
The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

Church: after Sunday

Several articles have come to our attention about the use of church facilities during the week. Dr. Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, wants churches to play a larger part in becoming centers for their communities. icWales reports:

Dr Barry Morgan wants congregations to think creatively about their church buildings and their wider use and to allow them to play a central role in regenerating towns and villages.

He believes churches can make the best of their assets and reinvent themselves by developing conference facilities, catering for school groups and offering services such as counselling.

He said: “A church that is closed Monday to Friday is the worst possible advertisement for Christianity.

“We cannot go on locking up our treasures in closed buildings any more. We have to open the doors of the churches physically, as well as metaphorically.

“This is about changing perspectives as well as reality. Too often we are perceived to be rather peripheral to the mainstream Monday to Friday life of organisations, communities and individuals.”

He said it was a way for the church to “move from the edge of people’s radar screens” so that the wider community can see the relevance of Christianity to their lives.

Read more here

In San Angelo, Texas CNN reports that members of a local Episcopal Church are helping provide food and lodging for volunteer attorneys for the children of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist sect, recently subject to a police raid on charges of abuse.

Read it here

In other items about church and community, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, commends a new program called Say and Play

Involve and Lambeth Council are trialling a new method for consulting local communities. We are currently working with local primary schools to combine a fun day for young families with an informal process for consulting on Lambeth Council's priorities. The focus is primarily on creating an informal fun atmosphere where families spend an enjoyable relaxing afternoon

What to do about food?

News about the effects of sky-rocketing food prices is starting to break through to the foreground of public policy discussions. While to this point most of the conversation has focused on the cause or causes of the increase, there are people starting to suggest ways that society needs to respond.

An article by Mark Trumbull published today in the Christian Science Monitor has some specific suggestions:

"Although poor nations are most at risk, much can be done by rich nations to avert a crisis and to set the stage for long-run solutions.

Some of the steps – such as boosting food aid – are obvious. Others are more difficult or politically controversial, but could reap meaningful benefits. Some examples:

  • Ramp up cash-handout programs for people who spend half or more of their income on food.

  • Curb or phase out government mandates or subsidies for using crops as fuel.

  • Expand agricultural research and spread existing technologies throughout Africa, where farmers lag furthest behind.

  • Prepare International Monetary Fund assistance to help food-poor nations cover rising trade deficits.

  • Resist the temptation to tamper with the free-market price signals that will ultimately encourage greater food production. This means resisting price controls or farm subsidies within nations, and keeping trade open among nations."

Additionally the director of the USAID (US Agency for International Development) points out that the national security implications of the developing crisis. He makes additional recommendations about aid delivery mechanisms that are being supported by the US administration, and which may soon be implemented.

The article concludes by pointing out that this does not appear to be a short-term issue. It is expected that the present pressures will intensify squeezing those in extreme poverty more and more in coming years.

Read the full article here.

Who owns a congregation?

Dan Hotchiss: "Who plays the role of stockholders in a business?

Not the members. Not the board. Not the clergy or the bishop or the staff. These all are fiduciaries whose duty is to serve the owner. Symbolically, we might say God or Jesus is the owner. But God’s whole will is too big to guide one congregation. Instead, the board’s job is to discern our mission, the small piece of God’s intention that belongs to us."

Read it all here at The Alban Institute.

Stagnating, declining life expectancy in segments of US population

The bottomline of a report on life expectancy in the United States is role of self-destructive personal behavior -- unprotected sex, smoking, fatty foods, and lack of exercise. But is it ultimately a failure of society, including the church, to identify the hurt and provide a message of hope?

Harvard Medicine+Science reports:

A new, long-term study of mortality trends in U.S. counties from 1960 to 2000 finds that an overall average life expectancy increase of 6.5 years for men and women is not reaching many parts of the country. Instead, the life expectancy of a significant segment of the population is actually declining or at best stagnating.
...
The majority of the counties that had the worst downward swings in life expectancy were in the Deep South, along the Mississippi River, and in Appalachia, extending into the southern portion of the Midwest and into Texas.

The study appears in the April 22, 2008, edition of the open-access journal PLoS Medicine.
...
[Lead author Majid] Ezzati said, “The finding that 4% of the male population and 19% of the female population experienced either decline or stagnation in mortality is a major public health concern.”
...
The researchers also analyzed data on deaths from different diseases and showed that the stagnation and worsening mortality was primarily a result of an increase in diabetes, cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, combined with a slowdown or halt in improvements in cardiovascular mortality. An increase in HIV/AIDS and homicides also played a role for men, but not for women.

The diseases that are responsible for this troubling trend seem to be most related to smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. “Smoking and blood pressure have a long history of being controlled through both personal and population strategies[," said Ezzati.]

Food prices expected to increase, how is the Church to respond?

The Catholic News Service reports on calls by Roman Catholic bishops that the Church must respond to expected continued rise in the price of basic food commodities.

According to the article:

"Already this year, demonstrations linked to spiraling food prices have struck more than a dozen countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Protests forced Haitian Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis out of office April 12, and demonstrators have been killed in Cameroon, Peru and Mozambique.

The price increases are fueled by a variety of factors that 'are all coming together at once,' said Lisa Kuennen, director of the public resource group at Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency.

[...]Price increases hit poor countries -- and their poorest citizens -- hardest. "

In response:

After violent protests in Haiti in early April, the country's Catholic bishops urged the government to implement both emergency and long-term policies to tackle hunger. In a statement issued April 12, the Haitian bishops' conference condemned the violence that began with protests in the southern city of Les Cayes and left at least five people dead.

Although "the right to demonstrate is sacred," the statement said, "this does not authorize anyone to take lives or attack property belonging to others."

In their statement, the bishops warned that peaceful demonstrations should not be infiltrated by "agitators and interested manipulators." Many Haitian analysts had suggested that the demonstrations over high food prices had been hijacked by politicians trying to turn the unrest to their political advantage.

The article ends with a call for the development of long-term policies in areas such as land reform, export controls and monetary policy changes that together are hoped to be able to "keep large numbers of people from slipping back into hunger and poverty".

Read the full article here.

People pedal along for the MDG's

A group of Episcopalians and their friends have banded together to raise money for the Millennium Development Goals. A core of a dozen bikers riding across Iowa, joined by friends along the way, will be collecting money from their sponsors for each mile peddled.

They're supporting the Waters of Hope.

A report in the Hawk Eye gives more details:

"The Waters of Hope's concept of success includes raising $150,000 for clean water projects such as chlorinators and deep water wells for the people of Swaziland and the Sudan in Africa.

[...]Iowa Episcopal Bishop Alan Scarfe will hold a service and blessing at 8:30 a.m. today at St. John's before seeing the riders off at 9 a.m., said organizer the Rev. Mitchell Smith of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Waterloo.

The cyclists will average about 100 miles a day. Each evening they will stop at a different Episcopal church to talk about their mission at a 6:30 p.m. service at the host church."

The overall efforts goal is to raise $150,000 by the end of the event.

Read the full article here.

You can follow along at the Waters of Hope website here. Great pictures from Sudan, of the pedaling, and ways for you to donate.

Reaching out to Rwandan women

In today's Nashville Tennessean, Beverly Keel tells the story of the Rev. Becca Stevens, the Episcopal chaplain at Vanderbilt University, and rector of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, who has financed Magdalene, a ministry for women with a history of prostitution and addiction, by founding Thistle Farm, a successful line of bath and body products:

"Without drugs I couldn't sleep. The marijuana and whiskey helped me to not think about the rapes and the beatings because of prostitution. I am so happy that you've come to hear about my life of sorrow…."

The letter was one of many thank-yous the Rev. Becca Stevens read after traveling with six Nashvillians to meet with 42 women in Rwanda, a country in east-central Africa that suffered war and genocide in the mid-1990s.

Read it all, as well as a previous story about Stevens, who is being honored tonight at Nashville's 37th annual Human Relations Awards dinner at Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel. She's also got a page devoted to her work in the women's ministries section of the Episcopal Church's Web site.

How and why we give

An article in the Washington Post examines the reasons we are willing to give to charities and the reasons that we balk. Apparently there is evidence that large gifts are primarily motivated by the self-interest of the giver rather than the need of the recipient.

The primary motivation for most giving seems to be how personally we feel connected with the situation.

Peter Singer is arguing that such thinking needs to be challenged because it often creates situations where the greatest needs go unmet. He argues that we'd be better off using Utilitarianism as a criteria for donation decisions. Not everyone agrees.

"'The first donation was the hardest to make,' he said. 'The first time I wrote a check that had at least a couple of zeroes at the end -- that was the hardest thing.'

Fiery Cushman, a graduate student in psychology at Harvard who studies how people's moral intuitions can clash with deliberate reasoning, said the unfolding disaster in Burma highlights another dimension of the warring moral compasses we have within ourselves: People are more willing to help in the case of disasters such as the cyclone than with 'mundane' and ongoing problems that are equally deadly, such as malnutrition or malaria in poor countries.

'Our reasoned judgment says people are suffering in both situations,' Cushman added. 'That is a good example of the mismatch between our emotional responses and rational responses.'

Still, Cushman questions Singer's utilitarian approach, because he argues that emotions undergird even our most rational responses. And there is abundant evidence that even though people value reason and rationality, human beings are biologically programmed to react emotionally to visceral moral challenges."

Read the full article here.

(One of the few organizations that is actually delivering aid in Myanmar is the Anglican Church of that region. You can give to that effort through Episcopal Relief and Development.)

Discernment in the city

A group of young people came to New York City to see first hand urban ministries and to refine their own sense of call. They saw the effects of redevelopment and the close proximity of enormous wealth and extreme poverty and the challenges this poses to the churches that minister in the city.

The New York Times reports:

Angie Hummel craned her neck and beheld a glass-sheathed Upper West Side tower where luxurious studios sell for more than a million dollars. She shifted her gaze ever so slightly downward to the brick building where Mexican immigrant families cram four people into a single room barely big enough for a bed.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Nothing like a stark comparison.”

It was that kind of day. Even where she stood — in front of a century-old brick church that was among the few structures not being demolished for new housing on West 100th Street — was a reminder of the price of progress in urban America. Smack dab in the middle of plenty, if not excess, people scrape by anonymously. For a religious person like Ms. Hummel, faith is found while navigating gently between those extremes.

“I have my own struggle of what I am called to do in this world,” she said. “What’s the point if there is still going to be devastation and brokenness, even despite good works? Is God really there?”

The New York Times: Finding, and Refining a Spiritual Call.

American friends of Sudan

The fourth annual conference of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan took place in Chicago last weekend. The gathering brought together the many partnerships between American and Sudanese dioceses and congregations. These missionary partnerships proclaim Christ in both the Sudan and in the United States and is a signal about how shared mission in Christ's name can overcome the differences between the two cultures. These relationships both save lives and transform them.

Recently enthroned Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul spoke about how after two decades of civil war, Sudan is enjoying "relative peace" following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 between the Government of Sudan, based in the north, and the people of southern Sudan. Although the political situation in the country is very fragile, he reported that hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by the war are starting to return home.

The conference participants came from around the Episcopal Church, representing dioceses and congregations with companion relationships with the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) and those seeking to explore new relationships. One quarter of those attending were Sudanese refugees now living in the United States.

And...

A significant part of the conference was devoted to the "nuts and bolts" of companion relationships in Sudan. A series of plenary and small-group sessions provided an opportunity for those already involved in Sudan to share experiences and resources that can lead to effective partnerships. This included the sharing of some remarkable success stories.

Following trips to the Diocese of Kajo Keji in southeastern Sudan by Bishop Paul Marshall, Connie Fegley and others beginning in 2002, the Pennsylvania-based Diocese of Bethlehem launched the "New Hope Campaign." Most of the funds raised will go to building schools and the Canon Benaiah Poggo College. The campaign has now exceeded its $3.6 million goal and is now striving for a $4.1 million dollar "stretch goal."

Fegley, speaking on behalf of Marshall, said the project and the diocese's relationship with the church in Sudan has been exhilarating and energizing. She also noted that Bethlehem has "the same diversity in issues" that other diocese have, but that the mission work in the Sudan "has helped to knit us together."

"Many people believe this is the most vital aspect of our diocese," she said.

And

Throughout the conference, given the fragile state of peace and the intense humanitarian need in Sudan, there was a constant theme: take action now. Many presenters said that the Episcopal Church in the Sudan is turning to the Episcopal Church in the United States, with its vast resources, for help at a crucial time.

Jackie Kraus reminded participants that Deng has said that help is needed more now even than in time of war.

"The American church needs to listen to the cries of our brothers and sisters in Sudan," said Kraus. "We need to give of our resources and become the foundation so they can become self-sufficient."

Episcopal Life Online: American Friends of Sudan hear challenge to act for peace, basic human needs

Finding the Way Home

The Daily Times, reporting on the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia area relates the work of The Way Home - a program started by St. Martha's Episcopal Church of Bethany Beach, that supports those released from prison.

Arthur White and Jim Sivley could pass for typical blue-collar workers, their shoulders broad and their hands weathered from years of hard labor.

In fact, most who passed them on the street probably wouldn't give them a second thought. And that's what they want: To be just like everyone else.

But in many ways, they're not. Both White and Sivley are convicted felons. Both men spent time in multiple state correctional institutions, both were released on parole, and now both are living under the same roof while they try to adapt to their newfound freedom.

With the aid of a Georgetown-based group called The Way Home, White and Sivley are working to turn their lives around. The two men are occupants of a transitional home in Millsboro where, through support from their group and each other, they strive to put their past behind them and create a new life for themselves.

To help former inmates ease back into society, The Way Home reaches out to prisoners.

The program, which began as a prison bible study program out of St. Martha's Episcopal Church in Bethany Beach, has grown into a private non-profit organization assisting prisoners upon their release.

According to The Way Home, more than 20,000 inmates are released from Delaware prisons each year. Within three years, half of those released find themselves back in prison. In a 2007 study, the New England Journal of Medicine determined inmates, in their first two weeks after release, are 12 times more likely to die than people of similar age, gender and race. Causes of death are typically related to drug overdoses, cardiovascular diseases, homicide and suicide.

Read more here.

Rethinking mission trips

The Washington Post reports that churches are re-thinking expensive overseas mission trips that are seen by critics as "religious tourism" undertaken by "vacationaries."

Read more »

Nets for Life: phase 2

The Episcopal Relief and Development program, Nets for Life, has succeeded in preventing malaria in many parts of the world. With the success of the distribution of treated mosquito netting, the effort will be increased over the next five years. Nets for Life partners with Episcopalians and corporations to raise funds for the prevention of malaria. According to Episcopal Life Online:

Read more »

How would you spend $10 billion?

Controversial Danish scientist Bjorn Lomborg, best known for expressing doubts about environmental priorities, asks a very interesting question in the Wall Street Journal this week. How would you spend $10 billion:

Read more »

4 star rating for Episcopal Relief and Development

Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) announced August 11 that it has achieved a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management according to a report in Episcopal Life Online.

Read more »

Welcoming challenging members

In the wake of controversy over the Bertha, Minn. church that kicked out a 13-year old boy with autism, the Oregonian did a very interesting story about how Portland area churches addressed the problem of "challenging members":

Read more »

Mission work in Myanmar

Katharine Babson is a priest of the Episcopal Church who's been doing missionary work in Myanmar on and off since 1994. There's an article published today that describes her ministry and her love for the people among whom she works.

From the opening of Saturday's article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald:

"Babson, an Episcopal priest who lives in Brunswick most of the year, figures everyone has their own spiritual journey. She speaks about what she believes in when asked, but proselytizing is not on her agenda.

She's too busy building preschools, helping Christian students with their applications to Western seminaries, and generally working to keep open the lines of communication between this politically volatile country and the rest of the world.

'I love what I do,' Babson said. 'Not many people understand this strange way of being a ministry, or they hear I'm officially a missionary and they say, 'Oh that's awful, you're over there converting everybody' and they don't ask any more questions. But what has evolved is this amazing cultural exchange, an opening up of a community to a world beyond itself.'"

Read the full article here.

MDG mania

Suddenly the world's media, which has been studiously ignoring the Millennium Development Goals to this point, has caught MDG fever, just in time for today's activities in New York City, in which the Episcopal Church will play a major role.

While Bono's blog for the Financial Times, (which is actually quite informative) and articles about Bono's blog for the Financial Times are generating some of the coverage, mainstream media outlets from around the world are weighing in on the political and economic nuts and bolts of the campaign to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

To wit:

Neil MacFarquhar of The New York Times explains why world leaders feel the U. S. financial meltdown may cripple the whole effort:

Wall Street and the Bush administration's record of financial oversight came under attack at the United Nations, with one world leader after another saying that market turmoil in the United States threatened the global economy.

"We must not allow the burden of the boundless greed of a few to be shouldered by all," President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil said in an opening speech Tuesday that reflected the tone of the gathering.

The Guardian has an excellent special section All Out on Poverty and an astute column by Leo Hickman which begins:

"We must do more – and we must do it now." This urgent call for action is being aired loudly in both New York and Washington DC this week. On Capitol Hill, Congress is being urged to accept Henry Paulson's $700bn bail-out for Wall Street's beleaguered banks, whereas just over 200 miles up Interstate 95 at the UN headquarters in Turtle Bay big wigs from around the world are pondering how the millennium development goals – this week marks the halfway point towards their 2015 target – are ever going to be met given the woeful progress to date.

It's at times like this where you really get to see the naked truth about where our worldly priorities lie. And it's pretty hard not to think about what $700bn would buy you if you were pushing the trolley around the Truly Worthy Causes supermarket.

Causes don't come much more worthy than the eight millennium development goals, which together form a panoply of unquestionably important aims: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development. But as today's special Guardian supplement All Out On Poverty illustrates, we have a long, long way to go if we're ever to meet most of these goals, let alone by 2015 which seems as absurdly optimistic a deadline now as it did back in 2000 when it was first announced. In fact, with some goals we have arguably slipped into reverse gear rather than advance towards them.

For a brief overview of what the UN will be discussing this week, this AFP story isn't bad. The Age of Australia has a good overview of the entire MDG effort. Meanwhile, Washington Post has a helpful story about the contributions of Bill Gates and Howard and Warren Buffett in response to the world food crisis.

There are additional stories from Bangladesh, Nigeria, an editorial from Business Daily Africa (Kenya), a pessimistic appraisal of where the campaign stands from World Vision, India, and a personal vantage point provided by Queen Rania of Jordan on Slate.

So, I'm in NY this week wearing a couple of hats, shining a spotlight on the Millennium Development Goals and talking about the need for more sustainable development that will not only safeguard the environment, but also provide opportunity for the disenfranchised in society. It's something we're very interested in, in the Arab world.

I was invited to speak at Condé Nast's World Savers Awards conference amid the awesome and inspiring architecture of Gotham Hall. It was about the power of tourism to nurture our planet's precious resources while providing lasting economic opportunities for local communities.

I was there talking up the Middle East—not a region in conflict and turmoil, as many think, but a mosaic of cultures, stories, traditions, and warm, welcoming people.

Is the fact that Condé Nast has gotten into the act a good thing or a bad one?

ERD gets child survival grant for work in Uganda

From ERD:

Episcopal Relief & Development is proud to announce the receipt of a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This award is part of the USAID Child Survival Agenda which was established to focus attention on the dire health needs of children in developing countries.

Episcopal Relief & Development announces the receipt of this grant as we commemorate World Food Day on October 16th and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17th. The theme, “working together out of poverty” highlights the need for a global anti-poverty partnership between both developed and developing countries. These commemorative days are a reminder of the Millennium Development Goals which aim to combat disease, inequality, hunger and cut the number of people living in extreme poverty in half by the year 2015.

The USAID grant will be implemented in January of 2009 and will fund Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs in Northern Uganda where there are currently at least 1.4 million people living in Internally Displaced People camps. Janette O'Neill, Senior Director for Africa Programs, is currently in Uganda working with local partners to develop a holistic program that will address critical needs for communities. The goal of the Episcopal Relief & Development USAID program is to contribute to sustained improvements in child survival and health outcomes.

“Episcopal Relief & Development is honored to receive this generous grant supporting our heath and hunger programs in Uganda,” said Mariama Dauda, African Program Officer. “The grant will allow us to implement key programs that will improve child survival in Uganda.”

To make a contribution to help people in Northern Uganda, please donate to Episcopal Relief & Development online at www.er-d.org, or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

One wonders how Archbishop Henry Orombi, who has refused aid from the Episcopal Church because of its stance on homosexuality, feels about this development.

Putting the Bailout in perspective

British Baptist Times editor Mark Woods has a provocative column that puts the huge sums of money spent to repair the developed world's financial system in a larger context:

Nearly £2 trillion has been pledged to stabilise the banking system and start the flow of credit again.

This is nearly 36 times the aid sent by the richest nations of the world to the poorest every year, and 190 times the gross domestic product of the whole of Ethiopia. We are, it seems, as profligate when it comes to solving our own problems as we are miserly when it comes to solving other people's.

Whatever the long term effect of this bailout, it should at the very least make us, as a society and as Christians in society, take a far more critical view of the culture in which we are inevitably embedded.

. . .

The events of the last few weeks require deep reflection over many months. But if a different normality means an adjustment—no, not a lowering—in our expectations of what it’s reasonable to consume, it should surely include an adjustment in what it's reasonable to ask for others.

It is not, with due respect to worthy campaigners, as simple as saying, 'You've just spent £2 trillion on getting yourselves out of a financial mess; just give a fraction of that to Africa and all its problems will be over.'

But there is a yawning gulf between the poverty of a First World economy or City trader and that of a Zimbabwean child suffering from every disease of malnourishment. Nothing should deflect our political leaders from their commitment to end global poverty.

Read it all here. Hat tip to Jim West.

Baking up a plan to help end homelessness

Sweet Miss Giving's is a new bakery in Chicago that opened last week to great fanfare. Mayor Daley not only attended the grand opening, he helped cut the ribbon. After all, the city had contributed nearly $100,000 towards its opening--because it's part social service agency. The bakery, a public-private cooperative venture, is the brainchild of the Rev. Stan Sloan, CEO of Chicago House, which provides community-based support to people who have been marginalized because of HIV and AIDS. With the bakery, the organization is able to provide valuable job training to people like Mary, a former street hustler, and Stanley, an ex-convict who had been homeless since his release from prison.

The bakery hires homeless people with HIV and other disabilities, teaches them to chop, cream, fold, mix, pack, clean, deliver. They cater meetings and events for businesses, peddle wholesale to restaurants and coffee shops, sell gift packs to the public on their Web site ( www.sweetmissgivings.com).

The proceeds go to Chicago House. And other businesses recognize that the intern bakers are worth hiring.

Another do-gooding utopia destined to fail?

Reverend Stan grinned. It looked like a dare. "Watch us grow."

The first 13 interns were carefully selected, tested to see if they understood the delicate arithmetic of baking—measuring, fractions—and then trained in hard but simple acts like showing up on time.

"Work is habits," Stephen said. "We have to teach habits."

And work is patience. A couple of times Mary, frustrated, has announced, "I quit!"

"No, you don't," Reverend Stan says.

"Thank you," Mary says.

Baking is hard work. Cold refrigerators, hot ovens, hours on your feet.

"I don't have the best of legs," Stanley says. He wears support hose for the gout. "But I have the motivation of wanting to do something on my own."

He wiped his sudden tears. "I cried so much a couple of years ago, you just wouldn't believe it."

Now, he said, it feels like making art to him, the way the green zucchini mixes with the orange carrot and the batter turns into bread.

News on the opening from here (the source of the above excerpt) as well as here. The bakery website goes live on Monday, so look for that here.

Reaching out saves a congregation

Many congregations in the Episcopal Church, in regions that have been hard hit due to changing economic conditions and conflict in the denomination, have been struggling to survive. One congregation in Tennessee has come back from the brink by opening its arms and its doors to some of America's newest arrivals.

According to the article in the Tennessean, All Saints Church in Smryna the turnaround began when Anglicans refugees from Myanmar began to attend the congregation and invited other recent Anglican immigrants to join them:

"'It's a classic example of the Advent story,' Williams said. 'We could not find God, but God found us. In this case, he appeared to us in the form of 70 people who came from Myanmar.'

Eight months ago, the future of All Saints looked grim.

All Saints had been limping along since a 2006 church split, when the rector and most of the congregation left to join the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, one of several conservative rivals to the Episcopal Church.

The remaining 20 or so church members left behind couldn't afford to pay the mortgage on their building."

When the refugees began to attend, at first their needs threatened to overwhelm the congregation. But the members rallied and began to recognize resources (like arable land owned by the congregation) that they hadn't before. By allowing the new members to raise crops on the land, keeping a tithe for themselves and giving the rest away, the larger community rallied to support the efforts of the congregation and now the church is well on its way to be being a stable, active and vibrant part of the community again.

Read the full article here.

The Ethics of Aid

Krista Trippet speaks with Binyavanga Wainaina to explore the complex ethics of global aid. Wainaina is a young writer from Kenya and "is among a rising generation of African voices who bring a cautionary perspective to the morality and efficacy behind many Western initiatives to abolish poverty and speed development in Africa."

Listen to the interview here".

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ONE Sabbath

The ONE Campaign, which is focused on combating global poverty, is organizing ONE Sabbath, which, together with "companion programs ONE Seva and ONE Sadaqa will rally believers of all faiths, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others, to learn and take action on behalf of people living in extreme poverty and dying from preventable diseases." More information can be found here.

ONE Sabbath commissioned a n new Barna survey that reports that more than half of all clergy surveyed believe that their congregations need to be doing poor to help the poor:

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Episcopal Church responds to piracy

Episcopal Life Online reports on efforts by the Seaman's Church Institute to assist seafarers and merchant mariners affected by Somali pirates.

The Episcopal Church-related Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) has become involved in efforts to block the operations of Somali pirates.

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Adoptive parents give back

This week's Christian Science Monitor includes an inspiring story about some adoptive parents who were touched by the poverty they saw in Guatemala, and who did something about it:

"We felt good at first, because we felt like we had made a difference," says Ms. Downie, mother to a 2-year-old adopted Guatemalan, Sofia. "But then we get back to all these people who still need help, and you realize that what we're doing just isn't enough, and can never be enough. I'll never be able to give enough because there's no way to put a value on children and what they mean to a family."

Downie, of Roanoke, Va., is one of some 25 volunteers from across the United States who spent one week last month in Panajachel, Guatemala, "honoring" their adopted children by working with Mayan Families, a small nonprofit organization serving indigenous populations in the Lake Atitlan region in the highlands of Guatemala.

What started as a simple service trip for a handful of women who had bonded as they all went through the Guatemalan adoption process at the same time has snowballed into Helping Mayan Families, an effort that raised more than $30,000 worth of supplies to help provide free medical and veterinary clinics, Christmas baskets of food, and toys, clothes, and shoes to 1,000 poor indigenous families.

. . .

All of us moms are here for the same reason," said Hryniewicz, searching through piles of donated shoes to find a pair for a boy whose old shoes were so tight his mother couldn't pry them off his squished toes. "There's no way to say thank you for the sacrifice they made in giving up their children, so if you can't say thank you to the birth parent, you say it to their cousins and friends and community."

Read it all here.

Jesus is not a brand

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, author of Brand Jesus, has a very thoughtful and provocative article in Christianity Today that challenges those who want churches to adopt modern marketing methods in evangelism:

The champions of better church marketing say that withdrawal and resistance are not options for a local church that seeks a public presence. We live in a commercialized culture that accepts that virtually everything is for sale. There is simply no way to be in the public arena without engaging in marketing. Even if you do not intend to market your church, that's how consumers are going to perceive your outreach. They will take it in through market-conditioned filters. If we ignore this fact, we will probably wind up doing bad marketing, and that doesn't do anyone any good.

. . .

The difficulty with the pro-marketing arguments, however, is the failure to recognize that marketing is not a values-neutral language. Marketing unavoidably changes the message—as all media do. Why? Because marketing is the particular vernacular of a consumerist society in which everything has a price tag. To market something is therefore to effectively make it into a branded product to be consumed. The folks at ChurchMarketingSucks.com have no problem with this: "Marketing is the process of promoting, selling, and distributing goods or services. It's a business concept, but something very similar happens in the church. As much as we bristle at comparing evangelism to a sales pitch, there are certain similarities."

There are indeed similarities. But evangelism and sales are not the same. And we market the church at our peril if we are blind to the critical and categorical difference between the Truth and a truth you can sell. In a marketing culture, the Truth becomes a product. People will encounter it with the same consumerist worldview with which they encounter every other product in the American marketplace.

Thus our dilemma: The product we are selling isn't like every other product—it isn't even a product at all. But if the gospel is not a product, how can we market it? And if we can't avoid marketing it, how can we keep from turning it into the product it isn't?

, , ,

In other words, people who respond to church marketing approach Jesus as another consumer option. This is first and foremost a problem because it is blasphemy: We are talking about the incarnate Logos, not a logo. Additionally (in case blasphemy isn't bad enough), this should concern us because of the problems it creates for discipleship. Consumerism isn't just a social phenomenon—it's a spirituality. And it comes with spiritual habits and disciplines that conflict with the particular practices of the Christian life.

The entire essay is well worth reading in full, and can be found here.

Episcopal Churches create shelter from the cold

There's a pretty significant cold spell settling down across the east and mid sections of the US right now. The overnight cold is so bad that many homeless people are at risk of literally freezing to death. The situation is more dire for newly homeless people who haven't learned the necessary street smarts to survive these sorts of days and nights.

When churches in Bethlehem PA began to prepare to care for the homeless during these cold nights, they called the city to see about opening up city facilities. Being told that the Mayor would only be willing to open four jail cells for four street people to sleep overnight, the Episcopal parishes in the Lehigh Valley organized their own response and have opened their doors to get people out of the cold. Enlisting as many other groups as they could, they have managed to open at least three shelters across the entire Lehigh Valley for the cold spell, and have begun working to work on longer term solutions to such emergency conditions.

The Rev Scott Allen of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Allentown is quoted in this story about his congregation's decision to open their parish hall in response:

"'We are being intentionally naive in doing this,'' he said. ''We don't know what to expect, but our primary mission is to get people out of the exposure to the cold for one night. This is our job in being Christians.''

There's a second story from the area about the other Episcopal churches participating in the effort here.

Worship is mission

Craig A. Satterlee says that there is no distinction between worship and mission. He says that worship ismission.

I no longer subscribe to the distinction between worship and mission, nor do I think of myself as either a chaplain or an evangelist. Over the years, I have come to understand Christian worship as a river. Like a mighty river, the life and history of Israel, the saving work of Jesus, and the mission of the early church as these events are proclaimed in Scripture, are connected to one another and to the church’s worship as the single, continuing story of God’s saving activity in Jesus Christ.

Christian worship is God’s initiative and activity in human history and the world, as well as in our individual lives, before it is an activity of Christians or the church. Worship is a place where God’s liberating grace is already present and active in words and actions. God speaks and acts in and through the ritual of Christian worship to save, reconcile, and recreate humanity and all creation. The judgment and mercy of God, proclaimed and enacted in worship, signify God’s ultimate judgment and mercy for the world.

Rather than being the means or the motivation by which the church carries out its mission, worship is the location where God carries out God’s mission. Worship is the way God gathers people to witness to and participate in God’s work of reconciling the world to God’s own self. In and through worship, individuals and the community encounter, experience, and celebrate the God who is the source and goal of the rest of their lives. The church proclaims God’s reconciliation and shares in God’s mission by living in the world in ways congruent with what it experiences God doing and enacting in worship. In this way, God’s people worshiping in the midst of the world enact and signify God’s own mission for the life of the world.

Worship and mission are God’s single activity of reconciliation—not simply distinct yet related activities in which the church engages. God is the first and primary actor. While Christians and congregations can participate in, be indifferent to, resist, and even undermine God’s saving activity in worship, they can neither achieve nor stop it. Like a mighty river, God’s work of salvation, accomplished in Christ and continued and enacted in worship, will not be stopped until it reaches its destination, the fullness of the reign of God.

Read the rest here at the Alban Institute weekly e-newsletter.

Intentional Christian communities

The Washington Post Magazine cover story today captures the lives of young people who are finding God with the poor in intentional Christian communities such as Catholic Worker houses where they live with the poor that they serve:

At Simple House, as at other Christian intentional communities, the answer demands devotion and sacrifice. None of the missionaries at Simple House has an outside job. Laura earns just $200 a month to minister to about two dozen families in Southeast, doing everything from delivering food to helping a couple deal with their daughter's suicide attempt. She and her housemates have taken vows of poverty, obedience and chastity. They pray every morning and evening and attend Mass daily. In their rowhouse on T Street NW, they have no TV. No Internet. No alcohol inside the house. And no sex. Ever. What the young women lack in amenities, they make up for in sightings of rats and roaches.This is what it looks like to reject careerism and affluence in pursuit of spiritual fulfillment. This is what it looks like to become a modern-day radical.

. . .

"When we get to heaven . . .," writes Shane Claiborne, a leader in the intentional community movement, "I don't believe Jesus is going to say, 'When I was hungry you gave a check to the United Way, and they fed me,' or, 'When I was naked, you donated clothes to the Salvation Army, and they clothed me.' "

This is from Claiborne's essay in "School(s) for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism." The book has become an unexpected sensation among young Christians ready to renounce their parents' pursuit of worldly success in favor of a low-income lifestyle and a commitment to working with the poor. Even more surprising has been the success of Claiborne's most recent book, "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical," a memoir that also offers a deeper introduction to alternative Christianity and intentional communities. Published almost three years ago, it has sold almost 200,000 copies.

Read it all here.

Welcome the Iraqi refugee

Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, TN, hopes to draw attention to the plight of millions of Iraqis who have fled their homes since 2003 and says that the Gospel compels us to welcome the refugee.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced during the war in Iraq. More than 2 million of those have fled to countries like Syria and Jordan. Others have gone to Europe or the U.S.

The Tennessean writes:

The Saturday morning forum at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Nashville will feature a report from activist and journalist Kelly Hayes-Raitt, who worked with refugees in Iraq for several months in 2008. Organizers hope the event will rally support for the plight of refugees.

"The mandate for Christians is found in Matthew 25 — 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat … I was a stranger and you invited me in,'" said the Rev. Bob Abstein, a retired Episcopal priest and former pastor of St. George's Episcopal Church in Nashville....

Erol Kekic, director of the Church World Services program for refugees in Knoxville, said

Iraqi refugees who come to the U.S. have been through an intensive screening process. "We need to know who they are and what their story is," he said. "They have to show that they have a well-founded fear of persecution if they return home."

Churches and other nonprofits play a key role in resettling refugees. The federal government provides some basic support, Kekic said, but churches often supply needs like clothing, housing and emotional support."

Read the rest here.

Anglicans in the Americas looking to cooperate in mission work

Representatives of the Anglican Communion churches in the Americas will be gathering next week to share with each other what they are doing in mission in this hemisphere and to see how they might most effectively cooperate with each other.

The eight provinces working in concert with the Anglican Communion Office of Mission and Evangelism will gather for a five day meeting in San José, Costa Rica.

The full release follows:

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Out of the ashes, ministry

As a fast moving fire ravaged the neighborhood, Grace Episcopal Church, Allentown, jumped in to help the displaced families by offering shelter and assistance. The DioBeth newSpin, the Diocese of Bethlehem newsletter reports the day by day response of Grace Church:

[Saturday, Feb. 21] As a neighborhood fire displaced 45 people (32 adults and 13 children) in Allentown, near Grace Episcopal Church, the church became a temporary home for those without family nearby. Grace parishioners, in cooperation with the Red Cross, served lunch and dinner yesterday, breakfast this morning and set up cots in the nave of the church for overnight shelter.
6a00d8343d656053ef0111688f1166970c-800wi.jpg
[Sunday, Feb. 22] On Sunday morning at Eucharist, parishioners, Red Cross volunteers and a few people displaced by the fire entered into conversation during the time when a sermon would ordinarily be delivered. They spoke about how quickly their church was transformed into a shelter, including daytime hospitality, the preparation of meals and cots in the nave.

More here.

The story of the fire is here in the Leigh High Valley Morning Call.

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World Water Day designated

March 22 has been designated World Water Day by the United Nations. In Episcopal Life Weekly bulletin inserts for that Sunday, Mary Getz of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations writes that "water is central to our understanding of God's relationship to the world, carrying the image of renewal, promise, and hope," and that the conservation and wise use of water is, therefore, a duty of all Christians. She describes steps that can be taken to improve access to clean water for people all over the world.

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Does religion corrupt charity?

"Does religion corrupt charity?" has been the question of the week at the Guardian, and this question has provoked some interesting comments this week. The issue was framed as follows:

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March Gladness reminder

Episcopal Cafe is supporting March Gladness, a clever initiative by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation that has caught the eye of the mainstream media.

The deadline looms in 48 hours, so fill out a bracket, and join in. Full details are available in previous posts.

Our God--and our mission--is recession-proof

The Center for Church Communication (aka Your Church Marketing Sucks) tells the story of a church in Michigan that has cut back their staff and program because of the recession, and then turned around and gave out $100 bills to whomever wanted it, as long as they would multiply it for mission. The Episcopal Foundation of Wyoming did something very much like that.

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The case for putting 0.7% back into the budget

From Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (more here):

By now you have probably heard that the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church has sent a draft budget to General Convention that eliminates the 0.7% line item for the Millennium Development Goals.

Be not afraid. Be very excited.

Why? Because this has provided us a moment of great opportunity -- an opportunity to give everyone a vision for prophetic and inspirational living out of our Christian call through our budgets. This is an opportunity for us to take a joyful and exciting leap of faith in a time of fear. We need to approach it as that. Read on, and we'll show you how.

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March Gladness winners!!

Episcopal Cafe´editor, Jim Naughton, shoots and scores, placing 5th in the March Gladness bracketology. His son, Ben, placed 4th beating Jim by picking a better tie-breaker score than his dad. Brian Sellers-Peterson, Episcopal Relief and Development, won with a score of 156, choosing 47 of a possible 63 teams. Richard B and Max Walker came in 2nd and 3rd. Congratulations to all the winners. All the funds will be distributed to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) project they support. March Gladness was the idea of Mike Kinman of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation to have some fun and raise funds for MDG projects.

Click here for complete results.

Episcopal Cafe´ offered $100 bonus for the project of the player who registered with us before the playoffs. That players turns out to be Ben Naughton, who was playing for the Bokamoso Youth Program.

World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day is tomorrow, April 25th. Episcopal Relief and Development describes the day, Nets for Life and how we can help. The Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, also issued a statement.

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Episcopal priest works to restore former addicts to wholeness of life

Becca Stevens is an Episcopal priest working with women who have left abusive relationships, or who are working to overcome their addictions. Her ministry was profiled in the Washington Times over the weekend.

From the article:

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How to respond to a crisis

In times of natural disasters or emergencies, local authorities and folks from the community are likely to reach out to faith communities to help with recovery. But hardly any congregations have an existing plan in place to respond when disasters happen. And the requests aren't always of a material nature.

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Serve more, drop the docents

In an article entitled "We Are Not Commanded To Be a Docent in the Art Museum, We Are Commanded To Love the Poor", Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision takes the western churches to task for their lack of commitment to the developing world.

In response to a question about whether the western church's focus on buildings, self-help and aesthetics is really just an American problem, he responds:

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World Refugee Day webcast

ENS reports:

A June 19 live webcast sponsored by Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM) and the Office of Communication will focus on World Refugee Day and will examine the plight of today’s refugees.

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Mission: real and virtual

Through a blog, Twitter, and Facebook Wyoming's mission trip to Honduras is reported back home as it happens. The immediacy of being virtually present with those on the mission has connected the team, the people of El Ceiba, and Wyoming Episcopalians who support the work from afar.

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Barbie on a mission

The Carlisle (PA) Sentinel has the story of dolls doing good:

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Biking for life

From Episcopal Relief and Development:
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop of the Diocese of Ohio, and seven other cyclists persevere after riding for three days through extreme temperatures up to 120 degree in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. “Their dedication is an admirable display of their commitment towards raising funds for our NetsforLife® program partnership,” remarked Brian Sellers-Peterson, Director of Church Engagement for Episcopal Relief & Development.

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Monk reaches out to prostitutes

From NPR:

On the surface, Main Street in Chattanooga, Tenn., looks nice. There's a newly developed arts district with galleries, upscale restaurants, a packed breakfast joint called the Bluegrass Grill, even houses that have been certified as environmentally friendly. But if you stray from these newly renovated blocks, there's a different side to Chattanooga's Main Street.

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Angel in the airport

From NPR online

Chester Cook knows he can always find a lost soul at the re-ticketing counter in Terminal A at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. So he goes there each day, plants himself near the line and scans faces.

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Citing health and burnout, a popular priest moves out of the shadow of Katrina

The Rev. Jerry Kramer, 41, has resigned the rectorship of the Free Church of the Annunciation in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans -- a low-lying area savagely wracked by Hurricane Katrina four years ago, Times-Picayune reported today. He cited health reasons both physical and emotional.

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Living full lives to the end

Two stories of living a life of service in the face of death:

A Good Life to the End, Forrest Church, Death and Dying -- AARP
Source: www.aarp.org
Can a minister follow his own advice about embracing life in the face of death?

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NetsforLife snags $1.34 million

NetsforLife receives $1.34 million USAID grant

From Episcopal Life online

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ERD-backed tsunami aid funds misused in India; two arrested so far

UPDATE: Statement by Episcopal Relief and Development

Update on the Church of South India

Today, Episcopal Relief & Development has learned about the arrests of two former Church of South India (CSI) employees in Chennai, India, regarding the alleged misuse of funds related to tsunami relief efforts. The arrests were part of an ongoing local police investigation initiated by CSI, a United Church and a member of the Anglican Communion.

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Pittsburgh's Bishop Price reflects on the road ahead

At the Diocese of Pittsburgh's pre-convention service of Evening Prayer on Friday evening, Provisional Bishop Kenneth L. Price offered counsel for a diocese struggling to rebound.

He preached, in part,

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Hospice in prison

From a series in the NYTimes, Compassion Behind Bars:

American prisons are home to a growing geriatric population, with one-third of all inmates expected to be over 50 by next year. As courts have handed down longer sentences and tightened parole, about 75 prisons have started hospice programs, half of them using inmate volunteers, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

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Double your dollars when you give to ERD

There are something like 46 days left until Christmas. So it's time to start thinking about who is deserving of something special this year. And if you're thinking of marking how important that person is to you by making a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development, then here's some good news for you.

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Anglicans begin to respond to human trafficking

Forty or so people from all over the Anglican Communion recently met in Hong Kong to plan a coordinated response to the scandalous practice of human trafficking. The most common form involves forcing children and women into the sex trade, but its rising tide now includes forced labor and organ harvest.

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New videos from El Salvador

Brian Sellers-Peterson, of Episcopal Relief and Development, is assessing needs and working to rebuild life in El Salvador after Hurricane Ida. He sends these videos:

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Saturday collection 11/21/09

Our weekly look at just some of the good work being done in the Episcopal Church.

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'Friends' and 'Partners': the latest from ERD

The latest from Episcopal Relief and Development:

Partners
Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Elize, a widow and mother of five, lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Struggling to support her family while simultaneously dealing with the loss of her husband and the psychological aftermath of rape, her story is not an unusual one for the region.

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Houston attorney seeks end to Cathedral's 'Beacon' program

Harry C. Arthur, a lawyer in downtown Houston whose office is near Christ Church Cathedral, is suing in pursuit of shutting down The Beacon, the cathedral's well-used program for area homeless.

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Feeding ministries abound and offend

Typically at this time of year there are many stories about how churches are responding to hunger in their communities. St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Natik is doing heroic work in their community. But the need has grown so great that their food pantry has outgrown their parish building. Luckily the community around them came to the rescue:

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Saturday Collection 12/26/09

On the day after we commemorate the night on which there was no room in the inn, it seems appropriate to dedicate the Saturday Collection to service around the country memorializing those who died homeless.

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Christmas Spirit (with a capital S) weaves an extravagant bond

The Rev. Anne Walling, recently of St. David's in Nasville, TN, guest-editorializes:

The first sentence of the Bible tells us that from formless void and darkness, the wind or breath of God blew up newness, stuff, creation. That breath of God blew the stuff of life into the human creature, and the human being drew breath in the image of God, after God's likeness. That's the stuff we are made of.

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Open door policy keeps people warm

Murray Ledger and Times (KY) reports on a warming center that now has an open door policy to help homeless stay warm:

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Human Trafficking Day

Today is the world-wide observance of Human Trafficking day, an attempt to draw attention to the increasing problem of slavery, sexual trafficking and child labor. The Lutherans have some very helpful resources posted that are appropriate for congregational use.

From their site:

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Saturday collection 1/16/10

The world's attention was rightly focused on Haiti this week, but the good work of the Episcopal Church went on quietly in this country as well.

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Haiti update; end of Day 5

The reports coming out of Haiti are still focusing on the rescue efforts and the first signs that the aid streaming in from around the world is starting to reach the victims.

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Saturday collection 1/23/10

News from Haiti and coverage of services honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., dominated religious news this week. Here are a trio of worthy stories that may have escaped notice:

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A program like no other

A great program in Sacramento at Trinity Cathedral which offers shelter, food and more to those who are homeless:

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Saturday Collection 2/27/2010

The daily and weekly work of the Episcopal Church done primarily in its parishes and missions continues apace this week. A priest is recognized for his work in founding a ministry that supports many in Atlanta. Congregations are featured online for their ongoing feeding ministries, for their work housing the homeless, and for the support of life changing programs that support teens on the other side of the world.

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Haiti relief efforts struggling to overcome obstacles

The situation in Haiti continues to be dire. While aid is streaming toward the impoverished nation, the necessary infrastructure to distribute the material goods is lacking. Haitians living abroad, particularly those in the U.S., often called members of the Haitian diaspora are trying to coordinate a work-around as quickly as possible.

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With food pantries, 'it's a matter of ingenuity'

Sara Miles is Director of Ministry at Saint Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco. In that capacity, she oversees the congregation's food pantry.

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In prison and you visited me

Tom Barton in the Savannah Morning News:

From outside, you can only visualize what it's like for the 1,500-plus inmates inside.

One is Cedric D. Arrington. He's 50 years old, according to the inmate registry on the state Department of Corrections Web site. He's serving 18 years without parole for an armed robbery he committed two years ago in Houston County, just south of Macon.

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Cross country sabbatical

The Rev. Michael Russell, Episcopal priest in the Diocese of San Diego and essayist for Episcopal Café began his sabbatical Easter Monday. The difference between this one and most others is as follows:

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Episcopal school saves 387 lives

A Chattanooga Episcopal School, St. Peter's, helps save 387 lives through the "Nets for Life" program:

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Churches helping shelter animals

Flourish Online, in a series about churches being part of the community, suggests helping the local animal shelter through adoption and other assistance:

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Serving the needy in WI

Increasing need has made food pantries even more essential, reports the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

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Sudan and the referendum

The Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, the Episcopal Church's Africa partnership officer, talks about the need for prayer, study and action ahead of the January 2011 referendum in Sudan, when southerners will decide whether to secede from the north or remain a unified country.

Episcopal News Service posted this video:

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Adoption agency funds cut off by RCC, turns to Episcopal Church

The Huffington Post reports on the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and Bishop Jon Bruno helping an adoption agency when the Roman Catholic Church withdrew funding when the agency allowed same sex couples to adopt:

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Carpenters help feeding ministry

Carpenters assist church in New Jersey build church feeding ministry:

NEW JERSEY: Carpenters lend skills to help keep church feeding ministry alive
From Episcopal News Service

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The MDG's: Now is still the time

Peter Wallace, writing at the Huffington Post, reminds us, through the words of national and international voices of advocacy, that we must not turn aside from our commitment the Millennium Development Goals. Though the economic crises of the past few years have caused many of us to lose our immediate focus on the goals, the immediacy of the needs of the developing world have only increased because of the same crises.

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Can church structure keep pace with reality?

Elizabeth Kaeton of Telling Secrets has been thinking about the likely future roles to be played by laity and clergy.

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Greensboro Episcopal Church fights hunger one meal at a time

WFMY in Greensboro, NC, visited Holy Trinity Episcopal Church while the parish was "packaging 20,000 meals to send overseas.

"The church raised $5,000 for the event and involved the entire congregation.

'We thought this was the perfect summer program for families to do together and we're really proud to have people of all ages participating in this event,' said Event Coordinator Ken Keeton.

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Thistle Farms: a ministry among abused women

Religion and Ethics Newsweekly reports on the wonderful work being done at Thistle Farm, an Episcopal ministry in Nashville, Tennessee:

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Too much mission?

In the weekly e-mail from the Alban Institute, Peter Steinke has this to say:

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VOTE: help New Orleans' Jericho Road get an orchard

Today is the last day to vote in the Edy's Fruit Bars: Communities Take Root program:

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A missional moment with dessert...

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell reports on a missional moment following a report to the House of Bishops Fall Meeting about the work of the Task Force developing same sex blessing rites for the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music of the General Convention.

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ABC on UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals

The United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals opened in New York City. The Episcopal Church report by Mary Frances Schjonberg reveals a mixed view of the present and future.

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Recognizing the divine in the other

Showing mercy can be hard work, but seeing the divine in the other should be the mission of the church, argues Anne Sutherland Howard:

Seeing Ourselves in the Other
by Anne Sutherland Howard

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The ABC on the Millenium Development Goals

A video message from the Archbishop of Canterbury as the High Level Meeting to review the progress of the Millennium Development Goals begins at the UN.

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Are Quebeckers largely non-practicing Catholics?

The Globe and Mail's Michael Valpy says the recent elevation of Montrealer Brother André Bessette into Roman Catholic sainthood reveals a depth of irony: while 83 percent in Quebec claim Catholicism, the number of those claiming active engagement in that faith is drastically lower, at 15 percent.

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Jericho Road plants trees today

Fullscreen%20capture%2011172010%20104728%20AM.bmp.jpgJericho Road, Episcopal Housing initiative in New Orleans is planting the trees given by Edy's Fruit Bars and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation.

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CHEFS serves the homeless

San Francisco loves food. There’s roughly one restaurant for every 234 San Franciscans. (In New York, the ratio is one to 440). With every type of cuisine imaginable, from Pan Asian to fine-dining vegan, it’s safe to say San Francisco is a foodie Mecca. CHEFS is a ministry of Episcopal Community Services Center that trains the homeless to work as chefs in the San Francisco area.

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It was 55 years ago today - Rosa Parks sat

Yesterday, Google honored St. Andrew's Day with a St. Andrew's doodle, and today, since it is 55 years since Rosa Parks would not leave her seat on the bus, Google honors her with an anniversary doodle. Check it out:

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The church, the family and the individual

Justin Lewis-Anthony fashions a thought-provoking item out of a quote from Stanley Hauerwas:

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Global Mission statistics

Gordon Conwell's Center for the Study of Global Christianity has published statistics on the Status of Global Mission, 2010, in Context of 20th and 21st Centuries. A fascinating document on everything from the percentage of Christians in the world population - about the same from 1900 to 2010 to ecclesiastical crime - rising exponentially. Click to enlarge below:

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A Season of Prayer for Sudan

A new animated video detailing the situation in Sudan and the critical nature of the upcoming referendum is available from the Episcopal Church Office of Communication.

A Sudanese-wide referendum is slated for January 9, 2011 which, if successful, will establish a separate Southern Sudan with full rights to self-determination.

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Census data forthcoming, but handwriting's already on the wall

The last major census data are now a decade old, but the 2010 census is now essentially done, and some big new data sets are expected on Tuesday of this week.

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Seamen's Church Institute featured

The Seamen's Church Institute is one of oldest and most storied para-church ministries in the Episcopal Church. If you've ever done ministry in port city, you're probably familiar with the American church's version of the Mission to Seafarers (the U.K. ministry).

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Homicide victims and unclaimed dead honored by Episcopal churches

Episcopal churches in Louisville and Detroit step in to meet needs for liturgies of mourning and remembrance.

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A tearful, if temporary, goodbye to Cairo

The Rev. Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler, rector of St. John's Church-Maadi in Cairo, Egypt, writes that his family has had to evacuate for the time-being lest the danger grow too close.

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The Millennium Development Goals and 'conscious struggle'

Economist, Episcopalian, and Mother Jones Magazine founder Richard Parker visited Trinity Wall Street on February 27th. He told Trinity the realization of the Millennium Development Goals is not only a possibility but within sight - if we knuckle down.

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Quaker congregation debate school connection

A Quaker congregation in Manhattan looks at the demographic trends, the costs and legalities and wonder as a community if hosting an expensive private school is in keeping with their mission. The New York Times reports:

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Grants help break cycle of poor nutrition

Jubilee Ministries has awarded 28 Ministries (the capital M means they're official Jubilee Ministries) zeroing in on issues of health and nutrition.

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Anglican Alliance meets in Kenya

Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) reports on the opening of the first Anglican Alliance consultative conference:

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'Feed my sheep,' then get arrested

Members of a group calling itself Orlando Food Not Bombs were recently arrested for feeding the hungry, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

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Garden plots as mission beds

A Grand Rapids, Michigan, congregation, Holy Cross Episcopal Church, figures as a major player in the involvement of mission with local Bhutanese refugees. By setting up a garden space, Holy Cross has created a space in which refugees with limited or nonexistent English can come and work.

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The Communion looks like a "pineapple"

Jesse Zink, an Episcopalian seminarian at Yale Divinity School is journaling his summer travels in sub-saharan Africa on his blog "Mission Minded". Jesse is a former YASC missionary and is traveling around the Anglican Church in Nigeria this summer. He gives the background to his trip in this post on his blog.

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More push-back from Episcopalians against Alabama's unjust immigration law

The Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, AKA "Arizona with a Twist," was recently signed by Gov. Robert Bentley. Its reach is extensive. For example,

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Nigerian diocese isn't getting the help it needs

Jesse Zink continues to file thought-provoking dispatches on his travels in Africa. What he's found in Yola, Nigeria infuriated him.

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Hoops and hope

The Virginia Pilot (Hampton Roads, VA) tells the story of former Old Dominion University basketball player and his work in Malawi through the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Norfolk, VA:

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Practicing what you preach

The Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester NY) reports on an area priest who is heading to Tanzania to help kids. The Rev. Dahn Gandell, priest in the Diocese of Rochester and 2009 Deputy to General Convention; and parishioner, Deborah Shafer, will join others who are part of Carpenter's Kids project.

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Ministry to seafarers

The Rev. Lacy Largent, whom many in the Episcopal Church know through her ministry at Camp Allen, is featured in an article that talks about her "other" ministry, that of a chaplain to seafarers at the Port of Houston.

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Nice work

Today's Daily Scan, which we receive courtesy of Neva Rae Fox in the Episcopal Church's Office of Public Affairs is full of news that Episcopalians can be proud of.

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Bishop Sauls' proposal, II: assumptions about mission

In my last post, I promised that we would attempt a substantive discussion of Bishop Sauls' proposals for reforming the governance of our church. With your forbearance, I'd like to begin on the abstract level. The bishop suggests that our church is too top-heavy in its governance--an assertion with which I agree--and that we should be diverting more resources to mission.

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Going global to lend a hand

The Miami Herald reports on churches and synagogues traveling to the world to offer their hands and their skills to help others. One featured congregation is St. Philip's, Coral Gables:

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Mission. In your own words.

A conversation about "mission" currently underway in our church brings to mind this old George Carlin routine.

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Caring for Veterans

G. Jeffrey MacDonald, writing in the Huffington Post, explores some of the ways faith groups are helping the more than 1.35 million veterans adjust to civilian life after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. MacDonald writes, “With symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affecting an estimated one-in-six returning service members, congregations are coming face-to-face with the tolls of war. Experts say faith groups have much to offer, even when the wounds include PTSD and traumatic brain injury.”

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Stay connected to the core

Canon Frank Logue of the Diocese of Georgia ponders how we might stay connected to the core of our ministry:

Keep Connected to the Core of Ministry
From the Rev. Canon Frank Logue, who writes at "Loose Canon"

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How does your congregation regard innovation?

File under Mission:

On the subject of organizational attitude, Seth Godin hits the nail on the head and then splits the nail in half with a staple gun from across the room.

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An experiment in urban church building in Seattle

The Rev. Peter Strimer, rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Seattle, writes regularly for the Vital Posts blog at ecfvp.org. Since June, he has been chronicling his parish's efforts to re-establish a mission in Seattle's Lake City neighborhood. The series, which began with this installment in June is well worth following.

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What we talk about when we talk about mission

There is, as we have noted earlier, a hot conversation taking place in various gatherings within our church about “mission” and whether we are doing enough of it. Like all right thinking people, I am in favor of mission. But I have three concerns about the way the topic is currently being discussed in our church, other than the ones I mentioned in previous posts. They are:

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Glasspool on the mission of the Church

Bishop Mary Glasspool's sermon on mission given to the convention of the Diocese of Los Angeles on December 2, 2011.

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Seven questions every church should ask

The Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi, rector at St. James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ontario, suggests seven questions that every church should ask itself.

From the Anglican Journal:

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Teaching a trade

Timothy Park of Redmond, Oregon, documents the work of hair stylists who go to Nicaraugua to teach hair styling to women to help blunt the epidemic of prostitution.

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Malaria twice as deadly as thought

New research from the World Health Organization is showing that number of deaths world-wide due to malaria have been significantly underestimated. Instead of the 655,000 or so thought to have died in 2010, nearly 1.22 million died. That's the bad news. The good news is that malaria deaths are preventable and are actually declining because of the work of groups like ERD with Nets For Life to provide mosquito netting for anyone who needs it.

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World Water Day 2012

The UN's World Water Day is today, with the main event happening in Rome, including a live webcast. The home website reports:

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Washing the feet of the poor

In most Maundy Thursday services the clergy wash the feet of members of their congregations. But Bishop James Mathes took to the streets on Thursday along with members of the diocese of San Diego to wash the feet of people living homeless and in need.

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Homeless ministries: staying the course, safely

On Friday, Douglas Jones, a homeless man who became angry after being told that he needed to reduce his visits to the food pantry at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ellicott City, Md., shot and killed the Rev. Mary-Marguerite Kohn, the parish's co-rector and Brenda Brewington, its administrator. Jones then killed himself.

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Bishops Jefferts Schori and Tutu discuss mission "live"

UPDATE: video now available:

The Washington National Cathedral will host a live webcast featuring a discussion about mission with Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and former Archbishop of Southern Africa, Desmond Tutu.

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Don't restructure for mission, restructure through mission

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley has written an opinion piece on the restructuring of the Episcopal Church for Center Aisle, a publication and, this time around, a website, offered by the Diocese of Virginia.

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5 new Young Adult Service Corps workers deployed

Five new workers in the Young Adult Service Corps sent to Kenya, Japan, Hong Kong and The Philippines:

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Mission Trips: what should you strive to do?

Outreach Magazine published an article by Dan King called "Why You Shouldn't Build a House on Your Next Mission Trip":

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Backpacks

Molly Wolf who writes at Scrambling Towards Zion reflects on giving out backpacks for school children. Many churches prepare backpacks of school supplies or food for the weekends in this time of budget cuts and unemployment. What is your experience of this project? Wolf writes:

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Adding worship to the Marks of Mission

The Rev. Bosco Peters of Aotearoa New Zealand is campaigning to have worship, liturgy and the Eucharist added to the Marks of Mission. Currently the list has 5 "marks." He asks Anglican Consultative Council 15 meeting in New Zealand October 27-November 7 to consider this change. Peters writes:

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Knit for seafarers

Every year knitters from around the church make gifts for seafarers. Seamen's Church Institute offers ideas for gifts and assistance for those who work the seas and rivers in the shipping industry:

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Providing companionship during death, and after

As we pray on the Feast of All Saints for our loved ones who are gone, here is an inspiring story about efforts in Los Angeles and Chattanooga to provide companionship to the dying and to honor those who have died alone. From Episcopal News Service:

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Helping children cope

Episcopal Relief and Development offers ideas for working with children during and after disasters:

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Churches respond to #Sandy

Episcopal News Service reports on the many churches that are responding to needs from Hurricane Sandy devastation in their communities:

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Quilt auction for winter fuel

Bonnie Anderson, former President of the House of Deputies, is sponsoring an auction of a star quilt made by to raise funds to buy fuel for the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission:

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Occupy Sandy

Janet Upadhye, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer, writes on those aiding the relief effort:

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Starbucks partners with Seamans' Church Institute

Starbucks and Seamen's Church Institute are collaborating to help seafarers according to Episcopal News Service:

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Annual Good Friday Offering

The Presiding Bishop announces the annual Good Friday Offering.

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Super Bowl and the world

The US Global Leadership Coalition has put together a graphic on Super Bowl spending and how far that money might reach devoted to global issues:

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Huts for the homeless

Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Eugene OR is developing Opportunity Village, a innovative solution to homelessness in their area:

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Younger volunteers want more interesting jobs

Following up on our story about getting rid of old people to make room for younger ones is this story "Can we get some volunteers, please?":

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Boomers veer from career path to pursue ministry

As someone who was blessed with an opportunity to switch careers in my 50s to devote myself to fulltime church work, I found this piece in the Wall Street Journal interesting:

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St Thomas' Community Garden gets grant

St Thomas Episcopal Church in Sioux City Iowa has received a $5000 grant from HyVee stores which will be used to build a greenhouse at their community garden. Former reporting team member of The Lead, the Rev. Torey Lightcap is the rector of St Thomas.

A statement from the Rev. Torey Lightcap:

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Formerly homeless couple now serves others

A couple who were homeless and living in a tent now offer services at Christ Church, Ramapo, NY for others who are homeless:

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Mission: asking people what they need that the church could provide

Missioners are asking people what do you need that the church could provide as they develop programs for their neighborhoods. Faith and Leadership reports:

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Helping is a two-way street

From Anglican News Service

“Together” is the title of a DVD produced by the Christchurch Anglican Social Justice Unit as a resource for Social Service Sunday.

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When Christian outreach hits the streets

The Chicago Tribune published a story over the weekend about ramped up charitable activity on the part of churchgoers:

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Churches launch campaign for garment workers in Bangladesh

A campaign to support Bangladeshi garment workers will be launched next week by churches around the world and led by the Church of Bangladesh, a part of the Anglican Communion, according to Anglican Communion News Service

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Core principles for medical mission in Haiti

An ecumenical group of people involved in medical missions to Haiti has offered colleagues in the Episcopal Church and beyond a set of “core principles” that ought to guide those efforts.

ENS

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Church words

As some readers know, I make my living as a communications consultant, working primarily within the church. I frequently write and edit copy intended for church audiences. As a result I come across words, phrases and rhetorical strategies that are distinctive to the church. For instance, people in the church “live into” things more often that people in the wider culture, and our prayer is “deep” as unfailingly as the children in Lake Wobegon are above average.

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Development policy taking into account sexuality

How does an acceptance and acknowledgment of sexuality change development policy and practice? The Guardian reports a panel discussion on suggestions from development professionals:

Turn around the negative framing of sexuality in development: When development work deals with sexuality issues, the approach is often negative. Sexuality is seen as a problem: you hear about rape, violence, abuse, rather than pleasure, willingness, or happiness. Development work often also portrays women as powerless victims. It would be beneficial to include a feminist approach to sexuality and women's empowerment.

Resource – how to factor sexuality into policy: One of the most effective tools we've been using at IDS recently is heteronormativity – the assumption that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation – as a framework to examine how policies that should allieviate poverty make presumptions about populations and family units. The outcome of not using this approach is that sexual minorities are excluded and invisible in development interventions.

NGOs and donors should facilitate, not lead: Community leaders are the best agents to lead change in this space. In Vietnam, changes are taking place thanks to the leadership of LGBT people. NGOs and donors should take a facilitating role only. It is important to give voice to communities as they know their concerns best.The question is, how to facilitate the leadership of LGBT groups? In our experience, thanks to the internet, many online communities have existed and developed to serve LGBT communities. It might start with dating, come-out experience sharing, or mutual support in health-care or coping with violence. As outsiders, NGOs and donors must be patient and respect the pace of LGBT leaders.

Read more here. How does this speak to the work of Episcopal Relief and Development? UTO? or other agencies of the church?

The problem with 'voluntourism'

Pippa Biddle has spent years working in different countries trying to make the world a better place. She has concluded that when it comes to helping the developing world, it might be best for middle-class white folks like her to stay home. She writes:

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Doubts about the concept of Ashes to Go

Are Ashes To Go really such a great idea? The Rev.Michael Sniffen of The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn is not sold:

Before you put on your gear and head out with the Lenten swat team, can we be real for a moment? I know you are chomping at the bit to "meet people where they are" at your local commuter hub, but please pause with me in the sacristy for just a second.

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Secret life of W.H. Auden

New York Review of Books tells of the secret life of W.H. Auden:

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Washing people's feet, washing people's clothes

"Washing people's feet is fine," I wrote last year on Twitter, "but more people would come to church if we offered to wash their clothes." That joke came back to me last night through the miracle of hashtags and retweeting, and it got me thinking.

I love the church's rituals, but it is important to trace them back to the source. When Jesus washed his disciples feet, their feet were dirty; they needed washing. His actions were symbolically powerful, but Jesus was doing a job that needed doing.

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Presiding Bishop preaches in Washington, DC

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached at this morning's Eucharist for the Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty, a three-day gathering of 50 bishops and young adults from eight domestic dioceses of the Episcopal Church (sponsored by the church and Bishops Working for a Just World) in Washington, DC.

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A look at our favorite word: missional

There were few words more popular at General Convention 2012 than 'missional', (except perhaps for 'nimble').

Helpfully, and perhaps in preparation for General Convention 2015, Ed Stetzer, a blogger at Christianity Today, has written a series on the meaning and origins of the word. In 5 parts, he talks to the professor who first used the word in print, as well as writers, theologians, and dissenters from the term.

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Voluntourism: the White Savior Industrial Complex?

A scathing reflection on mission trips by Lauren Kascak, a graduate of the Masters Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and Sayantani DasGupta, faculty member in #InstagrammingAfrica: The Narcissism of Global Voluntourism

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The Hospitality Center: "I don't know what we'd do without them"

In three brief years, The Hospitality Center, founded by Deacon Kevin Stewart and the people of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Racine, Wisconsin has become the largest feeding program in the city. Listening to some of the stories in this video makes the Baptismal Covenant come alive.

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