It's been a relatively slow week in the news, at least in terms of reporting of the day-to-day ministry of Episcopal congregations. Most of the attention has focused on the Pentecost letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury and his proposals to various group in the Anglican Communion. But reports of the everyday ministry of the Episcopal Church continue in spite of the primary attention being elsewhere, whether in the religious or the secular media.
The lead secular news story all week has been the growing calamity of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In the region faith groups are organizing to begin a coordinated response as the oil moves onshore. Church groups are ready to pitch into the cleanup effort, but their volunteers are waiting to see where the need will be greatest.
"Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana is also in a wait-and-see…and pray mode. Until the spill begins to make landfall along their fragile shore, there is little else they can do.
For now, they are praying, but it will not be too much longer before they will moving into an action mode as well.
'It is such a difficult situation; we are in a wait-and-see mode,' said Nell Bolton, executive director of the community service organization.
As the oil begins to come on shore - and even before that for some Louisianans who make their living on the open water (fishermen, for example, who are now shorebound and likely to remain so), the direct financial impact is already being seen."
This being Memorial Day weekend, there are a number of stories appearing about how communities are organizing to support the families of the military personnel on deployment. In Southern California an effort called "Operation Showers of Appreciation" is working to provide whatever an expectant military family might need. The Oceanside based organization has broad based support, with numerous faith communities organizing baby-showers.
Shari Wolf was looking to volunteer with a military cause because her son Christopher, 22, is a Marine stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, awaiting deployment to Afghanistan. He is a 2006 graduate of Ramona High School in Riverside.
"You really have a hands-on opportunity to serve these families," she said.
So Wolf organized the party at her church, All Saints' Episcopal in Riverside. She'd planned to help six families and raised donations from a bake sale, raffle, fellow church goers and other military moms she met online. Her 11-year-old son sold lemonade at a neighborhood stand to earn money.
It was so successful that she added three more families, who each received more than $500 worth of presents and gift cards. All but the Marshes were from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
In Iowa local Episcopalians are working to reduce the incidence of human trafficking in their community. It's perhaps surprising to think of that crime occurring that far away from a national border, but it appears there are very few places that have escaped the issue.
An article in the Quad-City Times about the efforts features the work of a retired Iowa state senator named Maggie Tinsman:
"Tinsman, who introduced legislation to allow local prosecution of human trafficking offenses, said three such cases have been prosecuted in Iowa. Each involved runaway girls. She said it is girls such as them who are at risk and in need of help.
One of the speakers at Tuesday’s meeting, the Rev. Brian McVey with St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davenport, said he has been going to the Iowa 80 truckstop in Walcott, Iowa, since November to talk to truck drivers and employees about human trafficking and prostitution.
He said over time, he has built up their trust by providing church services and counseling and has been told by some that they see both prostitution and human trafficking fairly regularly.
“Maybe we have some faithful truck drivers out there who are going to help with stopping this,” he said."
This week, back on the other side of the country, people and clergy of Church of the Mediator in the Bronx have used their church building to coordinate a community wide drive to provide whatever might be needed for the rebuilding of Haiti:
“We are doing a good thing for Haiti. We should keep giving more,” said Naomi Colon, 12, a seventh grader from CS 211 in Tremont, who came to the church with her classmates and teacher to volunteer their time.
“More people should be donating — we helped a little today — but there are still big problems in Haiti,” said Briannah Lawrence, 13, Naomi’s classmate.
By noon dozens of volunteers, including several construction workers from nearby Corlear Avenue, members of FEGS, an organization that helps integrate the mentally disabled into communities through volunteer work, and of course, several congregants from the church itself, had loaded most of the supplies that had sat idle on the church pews for months.
“The outpouring of the community has been incredible,” said Frank Holsapple, the senior warden of the church, who was coordinating the volunteers. Rev. Diego Delgado-Miller, the church’s pastor is currently in Haiti.
While, in Illinois, community groups, in a slight turn-about of the preceding story, are organizing to support an "Episcopal parish community in Trouin, Haiti that suffered significant structural damage to its church, school, rectory, and school teacher's home when an earthquake struck the island in January."
The organization is called "Friends of the People of Haiti" and has a long and successful history of partnering people of the region with the people of Haiti.