Noted Del. clergyman and Episcopal leader to retire

The Rev. Canon Lloyd S. Casson, clergyman and noted leader in the Episcopal Church, will be honored June 3 by the Wilmington, Delaware community and his parish as he officially retires after 43 years of ministry.

A native Delawarean, Casson has served for 10 years as the rector of the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, a unique parish formed out of the union of two historic Episcopal churches in Wilmington, Delaware—one with a predominantly white membership and the other predominantly black—committed to being an instrument of reconciliation and diversity.

For more information, visit the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew web site at www.ssam.org.

Read it all here.

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Thurgood Marshall Day - May 17

A stalwart group at Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall's former parish, St. Augustine's in Southwest D.C., is fighting to keep his legacy alive.

In January 2006, the group petitioned the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington to designate May 17 as Thurgood Marshall Day in the diocese, which it did. Last summer, at the group's request, the diocese also asked the General Convention of the Episcopal Church to include Marshall in its book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts.

Read more »

Vestry says don't vote

More news from the swirl of controversy surrounding Grace and St. Stephen's parish in Colorado Springs:

Faith at Altitude: Vestry says Don't Vote

"We ask that you not participate in this vote both because it is unlawful and because its outcome has already been determined," the vestry told parishioners in a May 3 letter. Grace's Web site states it's now part of CANA, and the banner in the sanctuary is that of CANA, too -- replacing the Episcopal flag.

The Grace Episcopal vestry called Grace CANA a "secessionist congregation now occupying our property," and argued the whole vote was anti-Episcopalian, and anti-Anglican, for that matter.

"We don't vote locally about parish migration," the letter read. "If Father Armstrong comes to disagree with Archbishop Akinola (who leads the Nigerian province) or if Bishop Minns (leader of CANA) investigates him for wrongdoing, what then? Another move to another bishop followed by another sham vote?"

There's much more, and also the text of the letter that was sent by the leadership of the "episcopalian" portion of the congregation, at the link above.

Paper or plastic?

As the US and other countries move away from using cash and towards the use of automatic payment of bills, debit and credit cards, churches are joining the cashless society. The Dallas Morning News Sam Hodges, reports on Good Shepherd in Dallas that made the decision to offer parishioners the opportunity to pledge with automatic assessments on their credit cards.

"They want to get the points, and that's fine," said Bobby Brown, the church's business manager.

But is it really Christian to collect frequent flier points on the way to heaven? Are churches that take plastic contributing to the nation's credit card debt crisis? Does automatic assessment rob from the thoughtfulness and spirituality of giving?

One big benefit of automatic giving, the business manager of Good Shepherd and others said, is that it eases what's widely known in church circles as the "summer slump."

People go on vacation and often don't make their scheduled offerings. With automatic credit card or bank draft payment, the church tends to collect more and definitely collects more evenly.

Just as important at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Mr. Brown said, was the need to keep up with how church members prefer to handle their finances.

"We couldn't afford not to do it," he said of the decision to take credit cards.

Does your church use automatic withdrawals, credit or debit cards to collect offerings and tithes?

Read the article here

HT to epiScope

Parish featured on ABC's Nightline

Good Shepherd of the Hills of Cave Creek, Arizona and its involvement in issues of migration and day laborers will be seen on ABC's Nightline. The program is scheduled to be aired tonight, October 18, at 10:30 p.m. in Arizona. Check local listings for the time in your area.

The Lead covered this church's ministry October 1:

Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church of Cave Creek, Arizona, describes itself as a "little church with a big heart." That big heart has drawn it into the heart of both local and national controversy about migration and day-laborers.

Read it all here

A tale of three churches

Anglicans Online muses on the subject of welcoming newcomers on Sunday morning. Comparing three different experiences they raise the issue of what makes us feel welcome in worship.

In the first church there was no welcome, no greeting, no invitation. In the second church the welcome was like an assault of the inquisitors. The third church was "just right." As they explain the experience:

It's been a week since we were at St Cantilupe, 8 time zones from home, and we now understand what they did so well: they were behaviourally inclusive. We visitors were treated neither as interlopers nor as freaks, but as ordinary people, indistinguishable from those standing next to us who might have been there for decades. Simply by being there, by standing in the nave and singing the hymns and eating the bread and drinking the wine, we became (at least for that one day) one of them. Neither the clergy nor the congregation projected any sense of ownership, any sense of possessiveness, any need to guard their faith or their church or their sacraments against interlopers.

We've seen this phenomenon in sports pubs for years: if you drop in to the Argyll Arms to watch football, and sit down next to someone who roots for your team, you become a full member of the group, and not a visitor. Until last week we didn't realize it could also happen in Anglican churches.

Read the October 21st essay here.

What about your church - is it too little, too much, or just right?

Soup kitchen saves a church [CORRECTED]

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[Update 21 Nov 2007]
Correction by The Rev. William A. Greenlaw Rector, Church of the Holy Apostles Executive Director, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen:

There were several unfortunate and very misleading errors of fact in the recent article in The Living Church, “Soup Kitchen Bowls Over Parish,” November 25, 2007 (print version):

1. The soup kitchen’s annual operating budget is $2.6 million. The soup kitchen does not “contribute” $2.6 million to parish income, as claimed by the article: rather the soup kitchen contributes $130,000 allocated by our auditors to various non-religious shared expenses and $71,000 depreciation to the building fund to offset the wear and tear on the physical plant. These facilities costs are small considering that this is for several thousand squarefeet of handicapped accessible ground floor space in Midtown Manhattan.

2. The church suffered a very serious fire in 1990. In substantial part, because of the church’s reputation in sponsoring the soup kitchen, a large number of people and institutions contributed to the restoration of our landmark building. That restoration was completed in 1994 and the nave of the church, now a flexible usespace, was able to double as the main dining room of the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

3. The person who envisioned and established Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen was the Rev. Randolph Lloyd Frew, rector from 1978-84, not the Rev. Paul Coleman Cochran, priest in charge from 1975-77.

=======================

ORIGINAL POST

This is one of those man bites dog stories:

“We owe our existence as a parish to the Soup Kitchen,” said the Rev. William A. Greenlaw, rector. “It has put us on the map. Many who are now vestry members began as Soup Kitchen volunteers.”

Thirty years ago, the congregation and the facility were both worn out. Fr. Greenlaw said his predecessor, the Rev. Paul Cochran, was sent to Holy Apostles’ to preside over its closure. Instead, Fr. Cochran decided to launch the Soup Kitchen. Holy Apostles’, which reports average Sunday attendance of about 120, recently completed a $7-million renovation. Some individuals who contributed did so because of the Soup Kitchen.

In addition to drawing traffic to the parish, the Soup Kitchen also contributes to net parish income.

To the annual tune of $2.6 million net.

Read it all here in The Living Church.

Anna Quindlen writes a Thanksgiving story on Holy Apostles, Manhattan

Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in Manhattan "has fed the hungry for 25 years now without missing a single weekday, including the morning after the fire, when the church lay in ruins, still smoldering, and 943 meals were served by candlelight." So writes Anna Quindlen in Newsweek.

She concludes:

If elected officials want to bring God talk into public life, let it be the bedrock stuff, about charity and mercy and the least of our brethren. Instead of the performance art of the presidential debate, the candidates should come to Holy Apostles and do what good people, people of faith, do there every day—feed the hungry, comfort the weary, soothe the afflicted. And wipe down the tables after each seating.

Read it all here.

An earlier post on the Soup Kitchen at Holy Apostles that was based on a Living Church article contained significant factual errors. Please the corrected version the post here.

Episcopal parish supports an HIV ministry in Nigeria

John Animasaun is a pharmacist and a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Albany. He was born and raised in Nigeria, the eldest of six children. St. Paul's supports Animasaun in his ministry to Nigerians with HIV/AIDs.

The Times Union (Albany) interviewed Animasaun:

With help from St. Paul's parishioners, I was able to set up two merit-based scholarships for high school students. Each is about $100 and pays a full year of tuition and books.

It is difficult to separate an African man from his beliefs. It is common in Nigeria to say AIDS stands for American Idea of Discouraging Sex. Many people don't realize it is a real disease.

What happened when you returned?

I spoke at St. Paul's at a coffee hour discussion. I said I would like to do more. The church sponsored a second trip and I went back for about a month. By this time, I had a bigger network and had established World Care International Organization.

Read more »

Rector invites entire congregation over for turkey

During its first half-century, the church's founder was killed in a plane crash. The first full-time vicar was defrocked, and the priest who replaced him was an alcoholic. The Rev. Ken Trickett finally brought some stability to the church in 1984, but he died within three years. The priest who replaced him disappeared in the middle of the night at Christmastime, never to be heard from again.

By 1991, the son of the church's founder returned to shepherd the flock, and congregants were convinced their troubles were finally over. But 18 months later, the Rev. Tim Kazan and his wife were killed in an auto accident.

"The person who offered me this job did not tell me one of those stories until after I said I would come," the Rev. Keplinger recalls.

The Episcopal Diocese of Utah had annexed Page into its boundaries after one official there approached church officials in Phoenix, who said they had no way to provide the resources needed in the border town.

The Rev. Keplinger and his wife were charged with giving the ministry a final go, after church officials in Salt Lake City had decided to give the experiment six months to succeed or they would shut it down.


Read the rest of the story of St. David's Episcopal Church.

Downtown Churches

Many Episcopal Church buildings are found in urban or downtown settings. A century ago this was were their parishioners lived. But that's not the case today. St. Bartholomew's parish on Park Avenue in New York City is one of the premier examples of how congregations need to transform the way they function in order to survive and flourish.

An article in the New York Times today profiles the congregation and their rector, The Rev. Bill Tully.

Speaking about why Tully accepted the call to St. Bart's:

"“I came here for the risk of it,” he says. His job as rector of St. Columba’s, the largest parish in Washington, “was getting too cushy after 14 years.”

And after 14 years at St. Bartholomew’s? Cushy address, certainly, Park Avenue at East 50th, but the luster stops there. “There was a question of whether we should even be here, of whether it is too costly to be running a world-class landmark in the middle of New York City, a place where real estate is one of the religions,” he says. “We exist in a city where it takes a lot of trouble and expense — $8 million a year — to keep the door open.”

But open it is. As is Café St. Bart’s, an upscale restaurant in the church’s community house with a menu more sybaritic than ecclesiastical. Mr. Tully introduced it in 1995, and even performed waiter duties on Day 1. “As I told our board, ‘If you think running a church in New York City is hard, you should try running a restaurant!’” The cafe is bustling, as is the 10-bed shelter, the food pantry and the soup kitchen, which served 80,000 meals to the needy this year."

The article lists the challenges facing the congregation today now that it has rebuilt a healthy congregational life. Specifically it details the costs of maintaining the historic building and fundraising efforts that are just beginning.

You can read the rest here.

Burning of the greens

It's common during the first week of January to see Christmas trees lying naked by the side of the road. For some, including the congregation at St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Va., disposing of the trees has become an occasion for gathering for an Epiphany bonfire, bringing to life the light that is the promise of Advent and Christmas. The event, which drew about 100 people from the church and the community, was featured in a Washington Post video this week.

"We bring that light and warmth into what is often a very cold and dark night," says the Rev. John Dohmer, rector of St. James. (It bears noting that temperatures in the D.C. region have been unseasonably warm this week.) The bonfire commemorates and celebrates the light of Christ coming into the world, he continues.

Tent city praised

Camp Quixote, a tent city for homeless residents that began illegally on city property but now is celebrated by city leaders, marked its first anniversary Friday, February 1, according to The Olympian.

The camp is a "safe place to stay after losing a 23-year marriage," said Ani Otto, one of three residents who were part of the original camp.

It started on a city lot near State and Columbia streets as a protest of the city's then-new Pedestrian Interference Ordinance, which prohibits sitting on portions of downtown sidewalks.

Olympia police evicted the camp, and it moved to property owned by Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, followed by United Churches of Olympia, St. John's Episcopal Church, First United Methodist Church and First Christian.


Read it all here.

For more on the Tent City movement read here and how to get involved here.

In other news of churches reaching out to the homeless comes this story of a Whittier, California Coalition and the development of a shelter and programs:

Gilbert said the inspiration for the shelter came when he and other students were sitting in a Quaker meeting on the Whittier College campus, and a homeless man burst in on the meeting asking for help.

"That just got me thinking," Gilbert said. "That really affected me profoundly."

So, Gilbert and his friends found support in the Whittier Area Ecumenical Council, and several churches agreed to help host a

shelter during winter months.

The churches decided that the shelter would rotate to different locations on a weekly basis, and a few supervisors would always be on hand for safety's sake.

Bea Comini, a parishioner at St. Matthias Episcopal Church, was one of the first church volunteers to sign on to the project

"What a testament to the spirit of this town, that they're willing to put church buildings and church volunteers into use in such a way," Gilbert said. "It's hard and it's basically thankless, but it's also important and critical."

In the years since Gilbert and his friends helped start the shelter and staff it overnight, many changes have been made. Now, churches in the area partner with the local mosque and synagogue.

Read it here.

Palestinians airing views in pews of Pasadena

The Jewish Daily Forward reports:

An influential Episcopal church in Pasadena with long-standing ties to the Jewish community is coming under fire from local Jews for hosting a Palestinian Christian activist group’s conference.

The conference, “From Occupation to Liberation: Voices We Need To Hear” slated for February 15 and 16 at All Saints Church, a 3,500-member church in the San Gabriel Valley, caught the attention of members of Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center last month, after a Boston-based media watchdog group sent out alerts that the conference’s sponsor promoted an anti-Israel agenda.

The conference is sponsored by the American arm of Sabeel, a Jerusalem-based organization that promotes itself as seeking a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

All Saints received another mention in the news of the day:
Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake said Wednesday that he is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for endorsing GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee in a press release written on church stationery.
...
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a complaint with the IRS. The group says Wiley lashed out against them with a press release on Aug. 14.

“I commend the IRS for investigating Pastor Drake's flagrant abuse of church resources,” Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United, said in a prepared statement.

“Americans go to church to grow spiritually, not be lectured on which political candidate to vote for,” he said.

Drake defended the release and his comments on the talk show, saying that he was only offering his personal endorsement of Huckabee – not the church's.

“I think I'm perfectly within my rights and I am upset,” he said in an interview.
...
In September, the IRS closed a lengthy investigation of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena without revoking its tax-exempt status.

In a sermon just days before the 2004 presidential election, All Saints' former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, was critical of the Iraq war and President Bush's tax cuts, although he did not urge parishioners to support Bush or his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Locked out of church

2/19 UPDATE: the rest of the story -- the Diocese of Texas has cancelled services - which these people knew - until the safety of the priest and lay leaders can be assured. See more above.

If you have ever wondered what a protracted church fight, sometimes called a Level IV conflict does to a parish and what kind of witness this is to the community, here is a perfect example.

Worshipers at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas came to church yesterday to find a note taped to the locked gate telling them that services were canceled. The press was called, the priest who locked the gates was not at home and charges and counter charges abound.

Mark Garay of KTRK-TV/DT of Houston reported:

People went to their church for Sunday services and they were locked out. Now, they're left wondering if they'll have to find a new place to pray.

It all stems from an ongoing dispute with their church pastor. The St. Joseph's Episcopal Church is about 400 members strong. They're praying this will all get resolved and they'll be able to stay at the church and keep the congregation together.

They gathered to sing and pray on the outside drive, locked out by steel gates, where inside they have celebrated god every Sunday for years.

"We haven't seen anything like this before," said church member Paul Chukwujekwu.

The problems began at St. Joseph's Episcopal Church about a year ago. Members began complaining to local publications that the Rev. Nogozi Ehmehkah Agimm was ignoring his pastoral duties,; not helping troubled families, refusing to offer communion to hospitalized church members and neglecting visits and prayers for one 74-year-old church goer who was dying of cancer.

"This priest has never visited him or called his house to pray for him. And word just came to us that this man died last week," said church member Michael Onuogu.

Complaint letters went out to the Governing Bishop Don Wimberly. But members say Agimm then accused his own congregation of stealing money, and last week set off a burglar alarm during Sunday service before leaving with his family.

"His intentions were of course to for the fire marshals and the police to come here and arrest everyone. But of course, it didn't happen," said Chukwujekwu.

Last Wednesday, the congregation says he wrote a letter telling church members they were no longer welcome, and threatened to have them arrested.

"My faith has been tampered with," said church member Innocent Ohalete. "The church is a place of worship, where we come to seek salvation."

We went to Rev. Agimm's house for his side, but there but there was no answer. In fact, church members say their last contact from him was a note left on the front gate this morning.

Church members are hoping to arrive next Sunday and see the gates open. But they admit if they don't hear anything soon, they may have to find another place to worship.

Church members deny anyone has stolen from St. Joseph's. But they do say there have been at least two other break-ins at churches nearby.

Eyewitness News tried calling the Episcopal Diocese of Houston for a comment, but a taped message said the office was closed until Tuesday.

Here is the video.

Obama's former pastor to preach in Philadelphia church

According to Episcopal Life Online, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright will serve as revivalist for the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 28 and 29. This is the third consecutive year that Wright has led this revival but the first visit since his prominence in the presidential campaign rhetoric.

Wright is former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), a mega church in Chicago, Illinois with approximately 10,000 members.

St. Thomas is the oldest African American Episcopal Church in the United States and the first black church in Philadelphia. It was founded by the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first person of African ancestry to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.

Read more here.

PBS ran an interview with Wright on Bill Moyers Journal.

Wright also spoke at the National Press Club breakfast.

NYTimes reports on Obama campaign and Wright here.

And here is the transcript of today's press conference by Obama on Wright

Grace in Allentown PA

Grace Episcopal Church in Allentown PA offers grace in the city for those who come seeking spiritual and physical sustenance. PBS39 features the work of Grace, its Montessori primary school, food bank, and other services. The church is committed to serving the community in which it finds itself.

The rector, the Rev. Patrick Malloy tells Episcopal Cafe:

Grace Church is in a once-prosperous neighborhood that declined greatly with the death of the steel industry. While there were no factories in Allentown to be torn down, despite what Billy Joel's song claims, many residents worked in the nearby Bethlehem Steel Works: the largest factory in the world. As the neighborhood decayed and crime soared, the people of Grace Church voted to stay in the urban core and work to revitalize it, even as other mainline churches closed and moved to the suburbs.

Within the past five years alone, the parish has renovated part of a defunct retail space to create a 10-thousand-square-foot state-of-the-art Montessori pre-school and kindergarten (part of the city's urban redevelopment master plan), founded the first Montessori elementary school in Northeast Pennsylvania (and the first elementary school in the Diocese of Bethlehem). Grace Church partnered with the federal government to establish an employment agency for the neighborhood, turned over a significant part of its plant for GED classes, Monday through Friday, and has become the home of a rehabilitation program for fist-time juvenile offenders. Within the last year alone, both legal services and psychological counseling have been made available on-site to clients of all the parish outreach ministries.

Plans are underway for expanding the school into another abandoned downtown retail property, and converting a parish-owned house into apartments that will serve as transitional housing for homeless people.

Watch the video here.

Know your community, build your ministry

Getting a parish to think of themselves beyond the "four walls" of their church and engaging the community is a critical step of having a vital, active congregation that proclaims Christ. Doing that effectively requires that the congregation nurture their relationship to the community they live in.

Joy Skjegstad from the Alban Institute writes:

Getting to know the community that your congregation will focus on is a critical step in defining your mission. To start, work on getting answers to several key questions: What are the primary issues in your community? How do the people in the community want the church to respond to those issues? And probably most important: do the people in your community actually want the ministry you are proposing? Your congregation will be most successful if you can answer yes to this question.

It is pretty easy to stay within the four walls of the church and make assumptions about the lives of the people in the broader community. It is more difficult to actually build relationships with community residents and grow in your understanding of their needs and desires. It takes more time, too.

There are tremendous advantages, however, to building your congregation’s ministries on what the community says it wants. If you take the time to build these relationships, your congregation will focus its efforts on meeting unmet needs rather than duplicating what other groups are already doing. You will also have a strong foundation for sustaining your programs; strong relationships with your community make it easier to recruit participants and volunteers and raise money.

Read the rest here.

Meetings are worship

Charles Olsen notes that we often bookend church meetings with perfunctory invocations and benedictions. He suggests that if we redefine activity of the people of God serving on church boards as worshipful work, then prayer will no longer be relegated to a book-end position; instead, it will saturate the agenda and thread its way throughout the meeting.

Frame the Agenda with Prayer
Use opening and closing prayers that relate to the agenda of the meeting. The invocation might focus on the image of God and create an openness to and awareness of the Spirit’s presence and leading. The closing prayer might be a thankful offertory for the work of the meeting—lifted to God.

Glean for Prayer
At the beginning of a meeting, you might assign four people to keep notes with an eye toward separating out items for prayer. (They do not record the decisions being made. That is the task of the recording secretary.)

Offer Prayers of Confession
Naming “how things really are” and “what is left undone” are healthy processes for a board, but by themselves they can bind and paralyze it; the board needs to have a safe place to work through these issues.

Sing Prayers
Often discussion and discourse are anything but harmonious. Singing together models the harmony to which they aspire. The presence of wonder and mystery in music also helps break up the framework of most meetings by adding some “grace notes.”

Time-out for Prayer
After twenty minutes of debate and discussion over an issue on which people seem divided, the egos take over. Some deliberative groups have found value in taking three to five minutes of silent “time out” for personal refocusing and prayer.

Rotate Prayer
At the beginning of the meeting, assign each person to a certain fifteen-minute segment of the meeting; during that assigned time, members should pray silently for each person in the group and for the deliberative process in which the board is engaged.

Draw upon Model Prayers in Scripture
Olsen suggests using some of the models of prayer offered in Scripture such as using the Psalms, the Lord's Prayer. He also suggests that prayer is modeled in various parts of the New Testament such as Jesus’s prayer for his friends and disciples (John 17) and Paul’s heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving for his friends (Phil. 1:3–11).

Acknowledge Subliminal Prayer
Prayer may be ceaseless and subliminal, even when we engage in active work or deliberation. Such prayer plays just below the conscious level. The old desert saints wanted to pray without ceasing, so they attached the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me, a sinner”) to the rising and falling of their breath. For a while the breath carries the prayer. Then in a mystical moment the prayer carries the breath without one’s thinking about it!

Meetings Are Worship
Resistance to infusing the work of a board with prayer tends to come from the conviction that “there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place”—that worship belongs to Sunday and sanctuary and prayer belongs to worship. But an inspirational moment in a meeting does wonders in loosening the strings of resistance, and those inspirational moments will come once worshipful work is attempted. Let the only rule be “meetings are worship.” All else will flow to and from that fountain. Then we can drink from its fullness!

Read the rest here.

Grace upon Grace in the city

A small parish of just 80 members in the city center of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has just completed a major renovation of its liturgical space. Grace has created ''a beautiful, practical and liturgically useful'' space that has deepened their worship and expanded the capacity of the parish to minister in their neighborhood.

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The Morning Call says that during the project every time a need has presented itself, help arrived, often from unexpected places:

It's tempting to imagine providence at work in the renovation of Grace Episcopal Church, an Allentown landmark where congregants with an evergreen passion for the Gospel had grown ever less enamored of the vinyl floor, immovable pews and faded 1960s decor.

Even the rector, Father Patrick Malloy, described the look of the place as ''basement rumpus-roomy,'' but transformation -- new floors, new seats, a coat of paint -- seemed out of reach.

The 19th century church at Fifth and Linden has only 80 members and not much money. And virtually all its resources, financial and human, are funneled into its fundamental mission of outreach to the city's dispossessed.

But a few strokes of good fortune and an outpouring of volunteerism let the people of Grace reshape the church for far less than anyone dared to hope. And that has given a renewed sense of energy and purpose to parishioners, who consider the little church an essential part of downtown's past, present and future.

When other mainline churches left downtown, Grace Church chose to stay in the city even as the numbers dropped from a couple of hundred to about eighty. Their reach into the neighborhood is far beyond their size: their mission includes a Montessori school, a food pantry and neighborhood outreach. The parish frequently partners with the Baum School of Art across the street.

''They're incredibly important,'' said Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who frequently champions the value of faith communities to cities. ''They do some amazing work in the community with their after-school program, their homeless initiatives, their food program.… They're a stabilizing force in the community.''

What started out as disaster--a leaky roof which caused the church to flood after heavy rains--turned into an ongoing blessing.

In July, heavy rains broke through and flooded the liturgical space, damaging the floor.

Renovation turned from wish to necessity, but where to find the money?

That's where providence seemed to enter the story. At a summertime memorial service, Brian Brinker of Coplay, grandson-in-law of a longtime member, saw the flood damage and offered to donate $26,000 in terrazzo flooring material if the church would pay for labor.

The labor turned out to be covered by the insurance settlement from the flood damage, with $6,000 left over. That money paid for a new lectionary (a book of readings) and projector, plus paint and other supplies.

People often comment to Father Malloy that they admire the work that the parish is doing in downtown Allentown, but they don't join in because would not feel safe going to their neighborhood. Father Patrick says that after a recent break-in, "the police came and said, not that you have to expect such things in this neighborhood, but that these things never happen in this neighborhood. Robberies and burglaries are the plague of the wealthy neighborhoods in the western part of the city." The perception of the neighborhood as dangerous is one of the obstacles the parish continually works to overcome.

The renovation to the worship space included removing the pews, ripping up and installing a new terrazzo floor, creating an open space where people gather facing each other for the liturgy of the word and then move as a group to be around the altar for the Eucharist. The remarkable thing is that every time help was needed to move forward with the project, it arrived usually from unexpected places. Between these unexpected gifts and the volunteer labor of parishioners and others, Grace Church was transformed. Most important of all is that, through this project, the intimate relationship between the neighborhood and the parish has been renewed right along with the worship space.

Read the Morning Call article and the accompanying video about the project here.

See a slide show showing the progress of the work here.

Connecticut reaches out to Kenya

Terri Miles of the Amity (CT) Observer writes:

The dedication, support and money from a local church has made the dreams of young children halfway across the world come true. The Rev. Evalyn Wakhusama of Kenya delivered that message during a Jan. 28 visit to the Christ Episcopal Church in Bethany.

The Nambale Magnet School in Kenya opened its doors to the first two classes of 30 kindergartners and first-graders Jan. 12. Wakhusama presented a PowerPoint to parishioners to show them what their generosity achieved.

“The Nambale Magnet School is a beacon of hope and a symbol of development in Western Kenya, an extremely impoverished region,” Wakhusama said.

She showed photographs of colorful classrooms, the dining facility, dormitories, the school’s exterior, and the students wearing their new school uniforms. It contrasted sharply with pictures she showed of overcrowded public schools in the area where as many as 100 children share a classroom.

“We have reasons to be grateful and joyful in our hearts,” Wakhusama said.

The kindness of a remorseful stranger

Sam Hodges in the Dallas Morning News:

A mysterious stranger with a conscience left a cashier's check for $3,255 at Dallas' Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, explaining in a note that he was trying to atone for crimes of his past.

Two other times this year, the financially strapped church has had scatterings of $20 bills turn up unexplained in the vestibule, apparently stuffed through a gap in locked front doors.

Though no note came with those donations, the Rev. Canon Victoria Heard speculates they were from the same man.

Regardless, she's grateful.

"It was a godsend, especially in the middle of the winter when our fuel bills are the highest," said Heard, canon-in-residence at the Far East Dallas church.

In San Diego exodus over: Episcopalians of St. John's can return

From a Diocese of San Diego press release:

On Wednesday, March 11, the California Supreme Court dismissed the petition for review that had been filed by the former members of St. John's Episcopal Church in Fallbrook. The Supreme Court remanded the case with instructions for the Fourth District Court of Appeal to republish the opinion it previously had issued in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and the Episcopalians of St. John's Church. That opinion affirmed the right of the bishop to resolve intracongregational disputes over who is eligible to serve on a church board.
...
“I am overjoyed with this result which will finally allow the Episcopalians of St. John’s to return to their church,” said Bishop Mathes. “It is now time to bring to a close this unnecessary legal proceeding. The Episcopal Church will continue its ministry of following Jesus as an inclusive, servant church. All are welcome at St. John’s; there is room enough in God’s house for everyone.”

Read it all. The case is known as New v. Kroeger. See the Supreme Court's action here (one line).

ENS has a thorough report on the history of the case.

Trinity Wall Street announces grant recipients

In a press release Trinity Wall Street reports "grants of more than $1 million to aid communities in metro New York during 2008" and "an additional $2 million was awarded to Episcopal dioceses in the United States and the 70 nation Anglican Communion."

Applications for 2009 are now being accepted. For more information about the Global Partners Initiative and other grants, visit http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/grants.

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A collect for a committee

Bishop Cathy Roskam (bio) wrote these wise words. Try this prayer before your next vestry meeting:

God our true perfection:

Grant us brevity and resolution

To do only those things which should be done

And keep from all that we ought not to do;

To say all things needful, and not more.

Punctuate our conversations with your grace,

And when the mind grows weary and the hour late,

Bring us, in your mercy, to a firm conclusion;

Through Jesus, your (First and) Last Word. Amen.


When, and how, should congregations close or merge?

Looking over video of questions and answers from the October walkabouts in the Diocese of Minnesota (the election is Oct. 31st), we note finalists' responses to the sticky question, "How would you approach the difficult task of closing and merging congregations on life support?"

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Vandalism against All Saints, Chicago, soup kitchen

This morning, we posted an item about a story in The New York Times' Chicago edition about the soup kitchen at All Saints Episcopal Church. A few hours later, our friend, the Rev. Bonnie Perry, All Saints rector, texted us to let us know that the church had been vandalized.

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A "gift from God" meets local opposition

The Boston Globe reports on the kind of challenges that face more and more urban congregations. How to stay in the city and find creative ways to fund new ministries while still maintaining the connection to the neighborhood?

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Telling stories may get you unstuck

Is your church stuck? Would you like to see some movement, change, and growth? You're not alone. The Alban Institute article, "Getting to the Heart of the Matter," written by Susan Beaumont, emphasizes the role of telling, and hearing, stories as a methodology for getting beyond "stuck-ness."

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A bit of good news from Grace, Colorado Springs

Grace Episcopal Church has had a tough run since it began dealing with the consequences of a congregational split initiated by then rector Don Armstrong. The legal costs and the questions of who actually owned the property caused the congregation to have to defer some much needed repairs on the parish's historic property (which houses their offices). According to the local news, there's some good news for the congregation this weekend:

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For Episcopal parish music program reaches 1.4 million YouTube

In July 2007 while music director and organist at Redeemer Episcopal Church in Morristown, he [Wayne Burcham-Gulotta] began posting his choir and organ music from there on YouTube. There are currently 274 videos.

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The search process as journey

John Vonhof of Alban Institute discusses the search process as seven "stations" - a journey of discovery.

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CT property is TECs

A Connecticut state superior court judge ruled that Groton church property belongs to the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Connecticut:

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What more than love?

Seth Walker profiles the former Rector and current Priest-In-Charge of St. Mary's, Eugene, Oregon, and in the process explores the difference that it makes to hold the line from a place of love, rather than to just pick a side and declare oneself to be in the winning camp.

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Jane Shaw named Dean of Grace Cathedral

Breaking From the Grace, San Francisco website:

The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop of California, and the Grace Cathedral Board of Trustees announced today the appointment of the Rev. Canon Dr. Jane Alison Shaw as the cathedral’s next dean.

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Carmina of the Cathedral

It is said that dogs have masters but cats have staff. At the Washington National Cathedral, a cat is a member of the staff. During this weekend's Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis, there will be a changing of the guard.

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Red door = Safe haven

A service in memory of Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student who took his own life, was held last night at St. John the Evangelist Church in New Brunswick, NJ. It was part of a campaign in the Diocese of New Jersey called "Red Door=Safe Haven."

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National Cathedral starts repairs

The National Cathedral has begun to remove parts of the building damaged by an earthquake last August including stones weighing up to 2 tons each.

AP report in the Huffington Post:

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Trinity v. Occupy hits front page of The New York Times

The New York Times today carries a front page story by Matt Flegenheimer on the impasse between Occupy Wall Street and Trinity Wall Street.

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The whole world was watching

The mainstream media paid quite a bit of attention to the confrontation yesterday between Trinity Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street.

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The Rev. John Merz, Occupy-arrestee, writes his bishop

Updated at bottom with Bishop George Packard's latest blog entry.

The Rev. John Merz, priest in charge at Ascension, Brooklyn has written a letter to his bishop, the Rt. Rev. Larry Provenzano, and it has been posted on the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

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Occupy, Trinity and the meaning of "private property"

Tom Beaudoin, who teaches at Fordham University has written an extremely insightful essay about the impasse between Trinity Wall Street and Occupy Wall Street on one of the blogs maintained by America, the Jesuit magazine.

He says, in part:

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Canon Andrew on the situation in Baghdad

Canon Andrew White, Vicar of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, shares a Christmas message describing the situation in Iraq.

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New York Post on the tensions at Trinity Wall Street

More on the tense relationship between the Rector of Trinity Wall Street and some current and former Vestry-members. Some members have resigned in protest over Cooper's leadership.

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Local Church Procession Ends in Chaos

Breaking from the newswire:

SPRINGFIELD-- Police were called to a local bakery today to disperse an unruly crowd of approximately 75 Episcopalians after a religious procession degenerated into a dispute over doughnuts and coffee.

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What should Trinity, Wall Street have done?

I have had a difficult time understanding exactly what Trinity, Wall Street could and couldn't have done to avoid a situation in which an Episcopal Church was involved in the criminal prosecution of a retired Episcopal bishop and an Episcopal priest for what seems to me, at this point, to be little more than street theater.

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How to change your vicar: part two

Bishop Alan Wilson has done it again. Late last month he checked in with a piece called "How to Change Your Vicar", an insightful meditation on priest-parish conflict. "How To Change Your Vicar: Part Two" makes the seemingly simple point that one can't remove a priest from a parish because the priest isn't doing things that priests can't be expected to do. Wilson writes:

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Secretary of Labor: Frances Perkins and job clubs

Hilda L. Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor, writes about her predecessor Frances Perkins, now a "saint" in the Episcopal Church and job clubs in the Washington Post:

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One down, 65 to go.

Women at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Mesa, AZ, have spent the past seven months painstakingly painting and writing in calligraphy the pages of Genesis in an ambitious "scriptorium" project led by parishioner and medieval-art enthusiast Lee Kitts.

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Planning to local parish: fix up or sell your rectory but don't knock it down

The Planning Board of Albany, New York, has sided with neighbors who objected to the application of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church to tear down their deteriorating and vacant rectory to make way for a prayer garden and parking lot.

Timesunion.com reports:

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Fire damages Good Shepherd, Berkeley

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Berkeley was heavily damaged in a fire last night. KTVU TV filed a report. It begins:

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Church ushers and safety

Lisa Fox writing at the blog My Manner of Life discusses the expanded training for ushers:

For the last several years, usher training has consisted of three parts: (1) our role in welcoming, (2) our liturgical role, and – alas – (3) our role in security.

Does your church train ushers on security?

Brooklyn church damaged by fire

Fire at St. Luke and St. Matthew Episcopal Church, Brooklyn, that has been used for superstorm Sandy relief, may be arson according to CBS-New York:

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Episcopal priest Deon Johnson called "community leader and trailblazer"

In recognition of Black History Month, Brighton Patch (MI) is highlighting modern-day community leaders and trailblazers who live or work in the area. Aysha Jamali writes on The Rev. Deon K. Johnson and the work of St. Paul's Church, Brighton:

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Fire shocks Trinity Episcopal in Bend, OR

Members of Trinity Episcopal in Bend, OR were stunned to find their church devastated by an early morning fire. They gathered behind the crime tape and tried to take in the scene.

Parishioner Ginger Sanders took this photo:

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Sudan’s ‘Lost Boys & Girls’ celebrate Easter in Utah

Orphans displaced by the decades-long civil war in Sudan, known as "The Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan," now resettled in the U.S., celebrate Easter at All Saints Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City.

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Being the Church in a city locked down

The Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, Priest in Charge of Trinity Church, Copley Square writes to his congregation in the midst of the lockdown and manhunt in Boston and surrounding communities.

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Prayers for passers-by

UPDATED: Pictures from #Prayers2Pass at The Daily Chronicle

Building on the Ashes to Go model, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in DeKalb, IL goes out of its building to offer prayers. David Thomas of the Daily Chronicle:

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When churches act too much like family

The Rev. Catherine Caimano asserts that when church members consider themselves "family," they can make it very difficult for newcomers to feel at home. From Duke Divinity's Faith and Leadership:

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Responding to graffiti with consideration

Grace Episcopal Church in Randolph, NY found scrawled graffiti on the side of its church: "can I still get to heaven if I kill myself".

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Prayer service held for fallen firefighters

A memorial service for the nineteen Arizona firefighters who died last week.

ENS

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5 ways to be unsatisfied with your church

Shane Blackshear offers a list of 5 ways to be unsatisfied with a church. Rather than share just one of his list, here's the marriage metaphor at the end that points to the work that is needed with a church relationship:

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Bend OR church rebuilding after arson fire

Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend Oregon is rebuilding after an arson fire five months ago. Report from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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Sandy Hook memorial given home by Episcopal Church

From The Newtown Bee:

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Thinking about church differently

ECFVP Interview with Melanie Barnett Wright: "It has nothing to do with the building"

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Remembering the homeless

Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio will hold a memorial service for at least 32 homeless and formerly homeless people who died in central Ohio over the past year.

Columbus Dispatch:

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Magdalene St. Louis receives grant from Trinity Wall Street

From Episcopal News Service story:

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Episcopal church burned by arson set to reopen

Trinity Episcopal Church in Bend, OR, is less than two weeks from reopening its building.

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Identifying and stopping human trafficking

Episcopal clergy and congregations are participating in a two-day conference in Davenport, Iowa, to train medical personnel on how to identify victims of human trafficking.

The Rev. Becca Stevens, a Episcopal priest at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., is the featured speaker in a program called "Am I Trafficked? Recognizing Human Trafficking Victims in a Medical Setting."

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What does your parish do well?

Recently, Broderick Greer, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary, asked a simple question on Twitter (where he is @HolaBrody) : What drew you to the Episcopal Church? He captured some of the responses on Storify. Sometimes the answers to these simple questions can refocus our attention on important aspects of our life in the church.

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Arkansas bishop dissolves relationship between transgender priest, parish

Bishop Larry Benfield of Arkansas last night dissolved the relationship between the Rev. Gwen Fry, a transgender priest, and Grace Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff. The Rev. Fry, who had previously been known as Greg, had informed the congregation on Sunday, that she was in transition.

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Arms Wide Open documentary features St. Aidan's in San Francisco

Arms Wide Open, an 11-minute documentary, explores the lives of members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community who actively practice the Christian faith. It focuses on St. Aidan Episcopal and Glide Memorial churches in San Francisco and explores how despite a history of discrimination, LGBTQ people have found churches that they can call it home.

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Growth and gardening at The Falls Church

Friends of Episcopal Relief and Development share the story of how The Falls Church Episcopal in Falls Church, Virginia is growing both a revitalized congregation and bok choy.

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Disruptive forces in church leadership development

Faith and Leadership

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"Homeless Jesus" finds a home

The sculpture "Homeless Jesus" has been installed at St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Grand Haven Tribune:

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