From the ENS Archives: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Author Madeleine L’Engle on the Power of Storytelling
The March 9 release of Ava DuVernay’s movie version of the classic — and controversial — children’s book “A Wrinkle in Time” has brought a new awareness of author Madeleine L’Engle who was a world-renowned lay Episcopal playwright, poet and author of fiction and nonfiction books.
“A Wrinkle in Time” won the Newberry Award in 1963. L’Engle traveled widely from her home base in New York, leading retreats, lecturing at writers’ conferences and addressing church and student groups abroad. In 1965 she became a volunteer librarian at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. She later served for many years as writer-in-residence at the cathedral.
Episcopalians Gather for Day of Lamentation Amid calls for Action Against Gun Violence
Dozens of Episcopal cathedrals and churches across the country are marking a Day of Lamentation on March 14 for victims of gun violence by offering services, prayers, the tolling of bells and a demonstration at a gun manufacturer one month after the deadly shooting at a Florida high school.
The Episcopal events, coordinated by Bishops United Against Gun Violence, coincide with separate student-led plans for widespread classroom walk-outs and demonstrations that call for political action to address the seemingly relentless outbreak of mass shootings in the U.S.
Texas Church Sees ‘the Kingdom at Work’ in Longtime Wheelchair Ramp Outreach
Episcopal congregations have plenty of tools they can add to their outreach toolboxes: canned goods, used clothes, a warm meal, a place to sleep, coins for the laundromat, backpacks for students and sometimes just the patience to listen. At St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, the tools of outreach include actual tools. But no carpentry experience is necessary.
For 17 years, Access Plus volunteers have gathered at least once a month to build wheelchair ramps for residents in need, and the ministry is still going strong. With 218 ramps completed, Access Plus is increasing the number of projects it takes on this year after receiving $12,000 from a local foundation.
Sewanee Seeks Untold Story of University’s Ties to Slavery, Segregation in Reconciliation Project
“The Episcopal Church acknowledges its history of participation in this sin [racism] and the deep and lasting injury which the institution of slavery and its aftermath have inflicted on society and on the Church,” the resolution said, and it called on each diocese to compile evidence of that complicity.
Racial reconciliation also is a goal of Sewanee’s project, as it reaches beyond the campus to foster discussion in the community about these issues. One recent example was the Feb. 19 forum titled “Reading and Rereading History” featuring two Sewanee professors discussing symbols of racial injustice on campus. The event was held off campus to encourage a mix of students and residents to participate.
Episcopalians Confront Hard Truths About Episcopal Church’s Role in Slavery, Black History
The Episcopal Diocese of New York Reparations Committee on Slavery is holding a Year of Lamentation to examine the diocese’s role in slavery. It’s one of a growing number of events across the United States as the Episcopal Church seeks racial reconciliation and healing among its congregations and wider communities.
Episcopal Church Shareholder Activism Works to Change Gun Sale Practices
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council in late January authorized its Committee on Corporate and Social Responsibility to join an attempt to convince Dick’s Sporting Goods to abide by the Sandy Hook Principles developed to stem the tide of gun violence.
A little more than a month later, the Pittsburgh-based retailer announced Feb. 28 that it would stop selling assault weapons at its 35 Field & Stream stores.
Congregation Prays for Safety of Stranded Youths who set Fire in South Dakota Church Building
An Episcopal mission church building in South Dakota was damaged recently by a fire set by stranded youths seeking warmth and shelter from the cold. The congregation, while lamenting the damage to its guild hall, also has responded with compassion and forgiveness for those who caused the damage.
Church Leaders Express Grief, Call for Action After Florida High School Mass Shooting
Episcopal bishops are arranging for services of lamentation at churches around the country in the wake of the shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 students and faculty members dead, and the bishops and other church leaders are calling for political action against gun violence to end “these lethal spasm of violence in our country.”
“The heart of our nation has been broken yet again by another mass shooting at an American school,” Bishops United Against Gun Violence, a coalition of more than 70 Episcopal bishops, said in a statement released Feb. 16 following the Ash Wednesday massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Women Tell #MeToo Stories of Life in the Episcopal Church
Sexual harassment and exploitation in the church are being highlighted in a series of reflections, essays and meditations, some of them explicit in their descriptions, that began Ash Wednesday on the House of Deputies website.
Remember that you are Dust … and that You are Loved
Ashes smeared on a forehead in the shape of a heart? Candy conversation hearts that proclaim, “Remember U R Dust?” Apparently, that’s what might happen when Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day.
How to manage this clash of calendar? Lean into it or lean away from what priestly blogger called “the precipice of the cute”? Find a way to connect romantic love and God’s love of creation? Find something in between?
Diocese’s Call for ‘Expansive Language for God’ Sparks Debate on Gender-Neutral Episcopal Liturgies
The Diocese of Washington (D.C.) is calling on the Episcopal Church’s General Convention to consider expanding the use of gender-neutral language for God in the Book of Common Prayer, if and when the prayer book is slated for a revision.
He? She? Those pronouns aren’t preferred, the diocese says in a resolution it passed Jan. 27 at its convention, held at Washington National Cathedral in the nation’s capital city. Instead, the resolution recommends using “expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition. The diocese’s convention passed two other resolutions, voicing support for immigrants and the transgender community. But it was the call for more inclusive language in the prayer book that drew national attention, especially from conservative-leaning critics.
This Flu Season, Congregations Urged to Take Common Sense Health Precautions
Has the sound of coughing and the sight of runny noses got you questioning whether to shake hands during the peace or sip from the common cup on Sunday?
With this flu season said to be the worst since 2009, you have reason to be concerned for your health, but Episcopal leaders are advising parishioners to use common sense during worship without letting their precautions get in the way of participating fully in the life of the church.
“There are, I suppose, a million ways to get the flu, and it troubles me that we bring so much of our attention to the common cup as a particular danger,” Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche said in a Jan. 19 letter to the diocese, adding there is little evidence that sharing wine during the Eucharist poses a great risk of spreading illness.
State of the Union invitation highlights Florida Episcopalians’ work with displaced Puerto Ricans
When President Donald Trump addresses Congress at 9 p.m. ET Jan. 30 in the U.S. Capitol, Emmanuel Ortiz-Nazario was in the chamber listening.
It began Sept. 20, when Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, laying waste to the island and upending life for the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million residents. Ortiz-Nazario’s story continues in Florida, where he and his family relocated in November, joining the many Puerto Ricans who have fled the devastation at home to seek new opportunities on the mainland.
In Orlando, Ortiz-Nazario’s story intersects with the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida, which has helped welcome him and other Puerto Ricans by providing them with food, clothes, housing assistance and the spiritual support of an active faith community. It was through the diocese that Ortiz-Nazario was offered this opportunity to visit the nation’s capital and represent fellow Puerto Ricans at the president’s speech.
Hymnathons: Episcopal Choirs Perform Marathon-Style Training Events to Raise Funds
To raise money for the opportunity to sing at historical cathedrals in England this summer, the Evensong Choir from St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington, sang the first verses of 720 hymns for almost nine hours straight. They had a 15-minute morning break, a one-hour lunch break and a 15-minute afternoon break.
Working through the Hymnal 1982, they started with hymn No. 1 at 8 a.m. They also devoted two hours to singing all the verses of the special dedication hymns chosen by donors who gave an extra amount for the honor. To fit it all in, they had two timekeepers to help singers average about 30 seconds a hymn, with the goal to cross the finish line by 6 p.m.
Episcopal Church Challenged to Repent for when it Failed to Protect Victims of Sexual Exploitation, Abuse
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies, issued a call Jan. 22 for the Episcopal Church to spend Lent and beyond examining its history and its handling or mishandling of cases of sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse.
The two say in a letter to the church that recent “compelling testimony from women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by powerful men has turned our minds to a particularly difficult passage of holy scripture.” The story of the rape of King David’s daughter Tamar by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-22), they said, “is a passage in which a conspiracy of men plots the exploitation and rape of a young woman. She is stripped of the power to speak or act, her father ignores the crime, and the fate of the rapist, not the victim, is mourned. “It is a Bible story devoid of justice.”
South Carolina Church Finds ‘Natural Connection’ with Middle School in Push for Education Equity
Church-school partnerships like this one in South Carolina’s capital city engage Episcopalians in the Episcopal Church’s call to address education inequity. It is a call taken up most prominently by the All Our Children network, which held a conference in Columbia last week that drew more than 100 educators, advocates and church leaders from multiple denominations.
All Our Children is an ecumenical network with roots in the Episcopal Church. It was backed in 2015 by a General Convention resolution that identified church-school partnerships as “a path for following Jesus into the neighborhood, addressing educational inequity, and rejuvenating congregations.”
Christian Groups Decry U.S. Policy Change on Salvadorans as Episcopalians Offer Support
The Episcopal Church and ecumenical partner organizations are calling on Congress to act if the Trump administration refuses to reconsider its decision to end immigration protections for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans who have for years been allowed to establish roots and raise families in American communities.
At issue is the policy known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. The Trump administration has taken a hard line on the policy, saying it never was intended to offer immigrants permanent residency. The status typically is granted to foreign nationals from countries suffering from natural disasters or wars.
Episcopal Church Converted to Emergency Response Hub After Deadly California Mudslides
Sunday worship services at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church proceeded as scheduled on Jan. 7, as a storm loomed in the forecast. Since then, deadly mudslides and flooding have turned life upside-down in Montecito, California. At least 17 people are dead, and this tight-knit oceanside community south of central Santa Barbara is under a mandatory evacuation order as emergency crews search for survivors and victims, restore utilities and begin cleaning up the mud and debris that damaged and destroyed homes in their path.
The church grounds became a triage center for people injured in the disaster and church leaders estimated hundreds of people descended on the church during the heart of the emergency – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – seeking medical help and, eventually, evacuation assistance from the California National Guard, which staged operations from All Saints.
South Dakota Mission Church Wants Stolen Bell Back, Offers Forgiveness to Thieves
A century-old bell was ripped from its tower at an Episcopal mission church in South Dakota sometime around the beginning of the year, and Rosebud Episcopal Mission has a message for the thieves: Bring the bell back, and all is forgiven.
The bell was stolen from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, just north of Norris, South Dakota. It had been housed in a simple, wooden tower that was capped by a wooden cross. A member of the congregation discovered the tower toppled and the bell missing on Jan. 7 and notified Stanley. The cross also was damaged.
Stone by Stone, Repairs Gain Steam at Washington National Cathedral 6 years After Earthquake
The earthquake that struck the Washington, D.C., area in August 2011 caused an estimated $34 million in damage to Washington National Cathedral. More than six years later, less than half of those repairs are done, and the remaining work could take another decade to complete.
Progress is being made, however, and the Episcopal cathedral last month received a year-end donation from a foundation that will allow it to embark this spring on the next phase of repairs. This latest $1.5 million project will focus on the structure around an interior courtyard, which is the last part of the cathedral still closed to the public.
One Disaster After Another: Coping with Compassion Fatigue Can be a Challenge
There is such a thing as compassion fatigue. While the first studies centered on individual professional caregivers and how they lose the sense of caring that once inspired them, there is also an understanding that organizations and even society as a whole can suffer from what some call “empathy fatigue.”
Studies show that public empathy does wane within a few weeks of a disaster, but what happens if the disasters keep coming?
This Episcopalian Cultivates Community by Getting Dirty
As 2017 came to a close, Episcopal News Service caught up with Brian Sellers-Petersen during a brief visit to the Episcopal Church Center in midtown Manhattan. Sellers-Petersen spoke about how his ministry has evolved, his near-death experience and what he plans to do in 2018 now that he’s moving on after 17 years working for Episcopal Relief & Development. Hint: One catalyst was his book, “Harvesting Abundance: Local Initiatives of Food and Faith,” published by Church Publishing Inc.
South Dakota Mission Priests to Cover Hundreds of Miles for Dozens of Christmas Services
If your parish priest looks a little ragged after surviving this long weekend’s marathon of Advent and Christmas services, mention the Rev. Lauren Stanley. On Dec. 24, she will preside at seven services in seven different churches over 14 hours, and at those services, she potentially will officiate at dozens of baptisms while putting 210 more miles on her Toyota RAV4.
All in a day’s work for a mission priest in South Dakota.
Pittsburgh Bishop Treks to China Bearing a Sentimental and Historically Significant Gift
It looks like a tiny, old blanket with deer on it. Nothing to warrant a pause or second glance.
Yet that small Mongolian saddle blanket, draped across a chair in Diocese of PittsburghBishop Dorsey McConnell’s childhood home for decades, has crossed oceans multiple times, first from the hands of one of the world’s most famous political figures.
Tiny Wisconsin Church Moves Services Toward Sunset Seeking New Dawn for Congregation
Congregations across the Episcopal Church are touting Sunday afternoon and evening services as more convenient, intimate and relaxed. Sunday morning still dominates schedules, but later-day services in places like Baltimore, Maryland; Houston, Texas; and Folsom, California, are broadening the range of options for busy Episcopalians. Often, those afternoon and evening services are celebrated in addition to the congregations’ morning services, catering to different groups of worshipers.
Historic Episcopal Men and Boys Choir Keeps Welcoming Tradition Alive While Performing Near and Far
In Manhattan, the Church of the Transfiguration’s mission is to welcome all visitors regardless of such things as profession, race, nationality, reputation or status was established from the start. Christmastime can be a reminder to follow the example of inclusiveness and generosity to unexpected visitors, from wealthy foreign kings to desperate young parents.
Enter the church’s Choir of Men and Boys, circa 2017. On Dec. 15, the group performed a fully staged and costumed production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera “Amahl and the Night Visitors” with a full orchestra. The Italian composer created the Christmas opera specifically for children.
Closed Episcopal Church Finds New Life as Center for Farm Workers on New York’s Long Island
The diocese has long partnered with Rural & Migrant Ministry, a nonprofit agency that works around New York State to give voice to the concerns of farm laborers, many of them Latinos. The agency and the diocese now are working with other faith-based partners, including the Presbytery of Long Island, to develop the Center of Alliance, Solidarity and Accompaniment, or CASA, at Grace Episcopal Church.
The church already has become a regular meeting place for a “consejo,” or council, of farm workers who are helping to develop plans for the diocesan property in Riverhead, which includes the church, a rectory and a parish hall. Leadership counseling, vocational training and English-as-a-second-language classes are among the possible future uses.
West Virginia Church Pays off Families’ Toy Layaway Bills, Receives Praise from White House
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling, West Virginia, made local headlines after it paid the Walmart layaway balances on toys for several families in its community. The congregation had intended to remain anonymous, but word got out after news of the donations spread on social media.
The Rev. Mark Seitz, rector at St. Matthew’s, said the tradition is rooted in the grief of a local family who lost a daughter to illness more than 100 years ago. They gave the church an endowment in their daughter’s memory to be used each year to brighten the season for families in need.
Church Without Walls Uses Food Truck to Drive Home Christian Mission of Feeding Body & Soul
St. Isidore’s is a church built without walls but with a set of wheels that allows it to bring faith and food to several small communities of worshippers north of Houston, Texas. Some meet at a Taco Bell or a Panera Bread, others at a laundromat. Central to the mission is the Abundant Harvest food truck, which serves as a focal point for developing Christian relationships while alleviating both physical and spiritual hunger.
Episcopalians Help Boost Affordable Care Act Sign-up Numbers
Millions of Americans this month have signed up for health insurance on HealthCare.gov, the website established by the Affordable Care Act, despite the Trump administration’s cutting spending on advertising and assistance and declaring President Barack Obama’s signature law “dead” and “gone.” The administration also cut the sign-up period in half, so with a window of only 45 days, Episcopalians have joined with activists and organizations around the country to get the word out. So far, those efforts appear to have succeeded in a big way as the Dec. 15 deadline approaches.
Episcopalians Voice Fear, Uncertainty as Trump Administration Ends Protected Status for Haitians
Haitian Episcopalians living in the United States were shaken this week by news the Trump administration is ending a program that has protected from deportation Haitians who couldn’t return to their country after a devastating 2010 earthquake.
The Haitian communities in some American cities have grown large enough to support sizable Episcopal congregations, like St. Paul’s et Les Martyrs d’Haiti in Miami, Florida, and Haitian Congregation of the Good Samaritan in New York City. Some of those families’ legal status could be thrown into limbo by the administration’s decision.
Episcopal Food Ministries Help Neighbors Give Thanks After Northern California Wildfires
You’d think Thanksgiving, a holiday to celebrate God’s gifts of abundance, might be hard this year for these fire victims and volunteers. When it comes to food and drink, many Episcopalians in the fire-ravaged area lost so much, yet they gained community support they never expected. Not to minimize the traumatic disaster that took more than 40 lives and ravaged 245,000 acres, but the galvanizing of volunteers and donations since then has touched the hearts of many.
A Fire-Scarred Community Rallies With Spiritual Family
Healdsburg, a quaint little town about 70 miles north of San Francisco, has been through a lot in the past six weeks: a massive fire that burned 36,807 acres came dangerously close to the Episcopal church, and several of its parishioners who live in outlying areas lost everything but their lives when they evacuated in the middle of the night.
So on the night of Nov. 18, about 60 people from St. Paul’s and its neighboring parish to the south, Incarnation, Santa Rosa, gathered to eat chili, slaw, cornbread and desserts. And once they had eaten and had a glass of wine – this is, after all, the heart of the Sonoma wine country – the stories began.
A Resurrection Nearly 10 Years in the Making, San Joaquin Celebrates with Three-day Revival
The “Called to Be …” celebration ranged the length of the diocese on the eastern side of central California with stops in Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield. The revival included emotional stories of fear and frustration from immigrants, a Stations of the Cross-like neighborhood prayer walk, liturgical pomp and tradition followed by a food-truck dinner and Episcopalians filling yellow backpacks with goods for people living on the streets. It included touchstones from the past – an old quilt and an old bishop’s ring – as well as interfaith visitors and powerful testimony to the rebirth of the diocese.
How the Second-Largest Soup Kitchen in the U.S. Handles Hunger Today
Nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers face hunger every year, including almost one in four New York City children, according to City Harvest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to food rescue, distribution, and education, rescuing more than 500 million pounds of food in the city since 1982. The organization picks up day-old bread from restaurants and bakeries. Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen utilizes this bread, a lot of which comes from Eataly, an Italian eating and shopping emporium that includes a bakery, with several locations including two in Manhattan.
Even though the economy has improved the last several years, New York’s poverty and unemployment rates remain high. For many, income hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of living.
The Virgin Islands are Still Recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria
Six weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the Virgin Islands, thousands of people still had no power and were stuck with cold and canned food, if they could find it, according to a Nov. 1 report by The Weather Channel. The few grocery stores that have re-opened are accepting cash only.
Much work is to be done.
Episcopalians say Faith and Fitness can Unite to Strengthen Spiritual and Physical Muscles
Something happened when the Rev. Gena Davis balanced on one leg for tree pose and reached her arms skyward while squatting for chair pose in yoga class. Something transformational.
“It starts as a physical practice, and it can move into a spiritual practice. And that’s when the real question comes: What is this, and how can I make sense of this as a priest?” said Davis, who was vicar of Grace Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, at the time. She did her yoga teacher training then, too.
“In church, some people feel they’re worshipping in their head. This is a way to bring the body into worship. We totally recognize the mind-body-spirit connection. They’re integrated. It’s really a movement toward wholeness.”
Episcopal Food Pantries are Part of Nationwide Network with Goal of Ending Hunger in US
Poverty and hunger are all too easy to overlook in Wisconsin’s capital city, where public discourse is dominated by the parallel and relatively affluent spheres of state government and the state’s flagship public university.
But wander east from the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus or head southwest down the steps of the Capitol, and you’ll find at Grace Episcopal Church a ministry of nourishment that Willetta Randle, for one, relies on to put dinner on the table for her two young children.
How these churches handle Halloween
At the start of November, Carlos Carrillo thinks of his ancestors, deceased family members and his partner of 18 years, Rodney Goodwin, who died four years ago. It’s a Mexican cultural tradition, as well as a Christian rite, to remember and honor loved ones, while many of us simply go trick-or-treating with our kids for Halloween or ignore the hoopla.
Carrillo has organized a colorful, joyful commemoration of the Day of Saints and Faithful Departed on Nov. 2, the day following All Saints Day, for the last 12 years at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.
Episcopalians Invoke Values in Range of Anti-Hunger Efforts, From Soup Kitchens to Global Aid
In Christianity, food is inseparable from faith. It underlies a wide spectrum of the Bible’s teachings and Christian traditions, from individual fasting to Jesus’ Last Supper and the celebration of the Eucharist. The faith journey is a path from hunger to fullness.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled,” Jesus says in Luke 6:21.
But Jesus’ followers also were called to give to the poor, providing physical food along with Jesus’ spiritual food. Defining that mission, let alone fulfilling it, can be difficult, and churches and believers have wrestled since Jesus’ time with the question of how to best address the problem of hunger. Today, physical hunger remains a persistent scourge around the world, including in countries of great wealth like the United States.
Episcopalians’ ‘Widow’s Mite’ is Doing Mighty Work in Recent Disaster Relief
The Episcopal Church’s roadmap of the Jesus Movement has been guiding Episcopalians in their response to the chain of disasters that have struck the world in the last two months.
“You can see it in that we have various departments of the presiding bishop’s staff, the companion dioceses, Church Insurance, ourselves [at Episcopal Relief & Development], diaspora Episcopalians, friends and good people of faith all working together,” Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development senior vice president of programs, told the Executive Council Oct. 19.
Episcopalians Urge Protection of Arctic Refuge as Congress Moves Toward OK’ing Drilling
Episcopalians are rallying against oil drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, as the U.S. Senate takes initial steps toward opening part of the refuge in Alaska to energy exploration.
The developments in the Senate come just a month after Episcopal leaders the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops expressed renewed interest in the issue at their fall meeting, which was held in Fairbanks, Alaska. The bishops issued a letter to the church urging action on environmental and racial justice.
The Crisis Continues for Puerto Rico, and So Do Efforts Toward Relief, and Then, Recovery
Episcopal clergy and congregation members are resuming church services and school classes when they can and how they can, despite the vast devastation in Puerto Rico almost a month after Hurricane Maria swept through Sept. 20.
It was the strongest storm the island has faced since before the Great Depression, a Category 4 hurricane that spewed up to 40 inches of rain in some places in one day, whereas Houston, Texas, saw 32 inches in three days from Hurricane Harvey in late August, according to the Weather Channel and the National Hurricane Center.
Almost a month after Maria, Puerto Ricans are still in crisis mode.
What Would Happen if Episcopalians and Their Church Put Jesus at the Center – Really?
It would seem obvious that Episcopalians have Jesus at the center of their lives and that the Episcopal Church centers on Jesus. Yet, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry challenged the church’s Executive Council Oct. 18 to deeply reflect on whether the church and its members are truly answering the call of Christ during these times of challenges from outside and inside the church.