This week the news of ministry of Episcopal congregations seems to be focusing on the ways that Episcopalians are reaching out to support children and families in harms way. From finding treatment for children who can't access health care to creating programs for families who have lost loved ones, there's plenty of mid-August ministry going on.
The Diocese of Maryland is working with local dentists and Baltimore City officials to provide free dental care to children in need. The program was created when 12 year old boy died of a brain infection that spread from a rotting tooth that went untreated:
The city is working with the Episcopal Community Services of Maryland's Ark Program. Dozens of children are receiving dental care for the very first time.
"At first they were a little scared, a couple of tears, but once they see it's little more than brushing their teeth and opening their mouths and us counting their teeth and putting fluoride on their teeth, which I call muscles on their teeth making them stronger, they come with smiling faces, they come with open mouths ready to show us what their teeth are looking like," said Dr. Patricia Bell-McDuffie, Baltimore City dental director.
Twenty-three children have received services since the program started, and 16 children are receiving continual treatment.
Robert Certain, a priest well known to many Episcopalians, founded Care for the Troops years ago as part of his and his parishes ministry to men and women serving in the Armed Forces. There's a lovely account of the program's ministry in the Savannah Morning News:
"Care For The Troops began in May 2009, by hosting workshops for licensed marriage and family therapists around the state to improve their understanding of the needs of military families.
'I think we've done a pretty good job of connecting with clinicians,' said McCall, a 1970 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a veteran, having served on active duty and in the Army Reserves for over nine years.
This year, the group added the goal of encouraging more congregations to build a 'military ministry.'
The project includes suggestions for letters to send to members in the military, services dedicated in honor of troops, how to organize assistance for practical and spiritual support and how to build awareness within the congregation of the needs of military members and their families.
Care For The Troops has received endorsements from such mainline religious groups as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta (PCUSA) and the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."
And finally, a congregation in New Milford CT has been deeply involved in developing a program for bereaved children. An article in the Danbury News Times begins by describing the tragic loss of Eddie Baldwick, the father of three children who needed to find an appropriate venue to work through their grief.
For four summers in a row the Baldwick children have participated in the camp for kids age 6 to 18 who have lost parents, siblings, grandparents or close friends. This week, all three worked as junior counselors for the 26 campers at St. John's Episcopal Church on the Green.
The day camp started locally in 1995. The original Camp Jonathan started a year earlier in Watertown.
Jonathan was a 6-year-old boy with a terminal brain tumor who became the hospice patient of camp founder and director Mary Lee Carroll.
The camp's focus is to help children grieve in ways that make sense to them. Creative art therapy is a major component, as are meditation exercises, poetry, yoga, and a field trip to a local cemetery, Carroll said.