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Six region missionaries hired in service to God’s common mission in Connecticut

Thu, 05/11/2017 - 12:02pm

[Episcopal Church in Connecticut press release] The Episcopal Church in Connecticut (ECCT) announced May 11 that it has hired six people to serve as its first region missionaries, one each for the diocese’s six geographic regions.

These include:
* Northeast Region: Maggie Breen
* North Central Region: Erin Flinn
* Northwest Region: Eliza Marth
* Southwest Region: The Rev. Carlos de la Torre
* South Central Region: The Rev. Rachel Field
* Southeast Region: The Rev. Rachel Thomas

Scroll down for information on each missionary.

“I’m thankful to God that the resources of the Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut can once again be used to support missionaries in our state,” said the Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, bishop diocesan. “We are in a new missionary era. I’m delighted that these six missionaries will assist us in greater collaboration and participation in God’s mission.”Their hiring fulfills the promise made at the Annual Convention in

Their hiring fulfills the promise made at the Annual Convention in 2015, when clergy and lay delegates voted to reorganize and restructure the diocese. The plan included a change from 14 deaneries to six regions, region missionaries for each region, increased recognition and support for grassroots “Ministry Networks,” and a change from an Executive Council to a Mission Council, whose members would be selected from regions as well as elected from ministry networks.While each Region is unique, each Region Missionary’s core task is the same: “To challenge the Episcopal parishes and worshiping communities to expand their reach into local neighborhoods by collaboration with potential community partners — from other faith-based institutions to social service organizations to government agencies.”

While each region is unique, each region missionary’s core task is the same: “To challenge the Episcopal parishes and worshiping communities to expand their reach into local neighborhoods by collaboration with potential community partners — from other faith-based institutions to social service organizations to government agencies.””We’re called to listen to Jesus as disciples and spread the Good News as apostles,” said the Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, Bishop Suffragan. “We pray that our new missionaries will be another opportunity for us to put our shared vocation into action as followers of Jesus, intent on transforming the world even as we are transformed.”

“We’re called to listen to Jesus as disciples and spread the Good News as apostles,” said the Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, bishop suffragan. “We pray that our new missionaries will be another opportunity for us to put our shared vocation into action as followers of Jesus, intent on transforming the world even as we are transformed.”Last spring and summer, each Region Convocation selected and commissioned lay and ordained leaders to serve on its Region Recruitment Team. Beginning last fall, these teams helped craft the job descriptions and, early in the new year, vetted the nearly three dozen candidates in

Last spring and summer, each region convocation selected and commissioned lay and ordained leaders to serve on its region recruitment team. Beginning last fall, these teams helped craft the job descriptions and, early in the new year, vetted the nearly three dozen candidates in a first round of interviews. Additional rounds of interviews followed, completed by the bishops and ECCT senior staff and human resources personnel. By early May, the six region Missionaries were hired.

The region missionaries begin work on June 6. They will spend the summer and the rest of 2017 focusing on the region — its people, parishes, worshiping communities, and variety of contexts and cultures — while meeting regularly as a team for mutual prayer, team-building, learning, and sharing.

“‘Traveling lightly together and following Jesus into the neighborhood’ sums up our hope for how these new missionaries will inspire and lead us,” said the Rev. Tim Hodapp, canon for mission collaboration.

Referring to the 2015 governance and restructuring proposal from the Taskforce for Reimagining the Episcopal Church in Connecticut (TREC-CT), Canon Hodapp added, “They’re not tasked to accomplish the work charged by TREC-CT — namely, to collaborate, convene, connect, and build capabilities — solely on their own.

“Rather, our region missionaries will assist all of us in discovering new ways to join together across parishes and engage more deeply in what God’s doing in our neighborhoods.”

The Region Missionaries

Northeast Region: Maggie Breen
Statement: I am excited and blessed to have the opportunity to serve as the NE Regional Missionary. I am looking forward to joining with all of your efforts to spread the love of Jesus throughout our communities; together we can bring about great things. I can’t wait to start!

Bio: I’ve been involved in the Episcopal Church since the cradle, though my relationship with God has blossomed in the past nine years or so as my commitment to Him and my home parish, St. Paul’s Windham Center, has deepened. I live on a tiny farm in Chaplin with my husband Michael, our dog Shirley, and a small flock of sheep – three Shetland ewes and a Gulf Coast Native ram. I received my bachelor’s degree in music education and deeply enjoy my time spent in performance and rehearsal; my husband and I both perform in the Windham Concert Band and the ECSU Concert band, and I am a member of Take Note! an a capella singing group. My past work experiences have found me in such settings as public schools, hospitals and financial institutions. In the time reserved for leisure activities, I enjoy cooking, knitting, reading and walking. I’m excited about starting this new chapter with ECCT.

North Central Region: Erin Flinn
Statement: I’m thrilled to be joining the ECCT Regional Missionary team, and am looking forward to collaborating with a team to imagine a new way of living out God’s mission in Connecticut by connecting worshiping communities to each other and beyond.

Bio: I will be graduating from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity this May. Over the past three years, I have been immersed in Anglican studies and college chaplaincy. Most recently I was the Program Director for the Episcopal Church at Yale. Prior to seminary, I worked in university administration at Northwestern University, but my background is in theater production and I worked for the Lyric Opera of Chicago as the Assistant Lighting Designer for four years. I am originally from New Hampshire, and I am delighted to be remaining in New England, and settling into the North Central Region with my husband and our giant Newfoundland dog. I am especially passionate about ministry that looks outward and is open to all people, young adult ministry, and fishing.

Northwest Region: Eliza Marth
Statement: I am thrilled to be serving the beautiful Northwest Region! If the Region is the Body of Christ, as Region Missionary I hope to strengthen the circulatory system so that with connection and collaboration, we may maximize participation in God’s mission.

Bio: I hail from the magnificent mountains of North Carolina by way of the Chicago area. I graduated from Carolina State University with a BA in sociology and was heavily involved in the Episcopal Campus Ministry there. I then worked for two years with the unemployed and homeless in Washington, D.C. followed by a year spent on small-scale, diversified vegetable and livestock farms. The last two years I’ve lived and worked in Boston with an Episcopal Service Corps program called Life Together. At St. Paul’s, Brookline Mass. I have supported lay leadership, enhanced communication systems, and fallen deeper in love with my Episcopal community. I was born into the Episcopal Church, so it is with deep joy that I come to Connecticut to continue serving my community in this new role. In my free time, I love spending time with friends, cooking rich foods, and writing in my journal.

Southwest Region: The Rev. Carlos de la Torre
Statement: I’m excited to work together on collaborative projects and initiatives in the Southwest Region. The wealth of knowledge and resources are abundant in our region but so are the challenges. I look forward to gathering as a body to further engage God’s mission and continue to serve God and God’s people in our parishes, our region, and the world.

Bio: I am a priest in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. A native of Peru, I was raised in Westchester County, N.Y. In 2012, I graduated from Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y, where I majored in philosophy and world religions. That same year, I began a master’s program at Virginia Seminary, Alexandria, VA. In 2015, I graduated from Virginia Seminary and was ordained a priest on the Feast of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary. I have worked with parishes and community agencies in Yonkers, N.Y; Houston, TX; Alexandria, VA; Washington D.C; and in Stamford and New Haven, CT. Currently, I serve as a missional curate in ECCT working with parishes, agencies, and community members to engage God’s mission in new and creative ways.

South Central Region: The Rev. Rachel Field
Statement: I am delighted to return to the South Central region of Connecticut to support and encourage the ways in which you are listening for and following God’s mission of love for the world.

Bio: I am first and foremost a beloved child of God, as are you. I was working as a research biologist and environmental educator on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before pursuing ordination and attending Yale Divinity School (class of 2016). In this current time of ecological crisis I am moved by the invitation of Jesus to “love your neighbor” and to imagine how our liturgy can further incorporate Creation as our beloved neighbor. When I am not spending time in or around churches can be found hiking with my energetic dog Frodo, birding, gardening, playing my Appalachian dulcimer, or baking (anything involving chocolate).

Southeast Region: The Rev. Rachel Thomas
Statement: I am honored to be serving as the new SE Region Missionary. I love this region. I know God’s mission is too big for any one of us, and have found great joy in sharing it with others.

Bio: Seeking God and God’s path for my life has led me from Georgia to Connecticut; from being a Methodist to becoming an Episcopalian; from recreational ministry to campus ministry, to parish ministry and interim ministry. Along the way, I received three different graduate degrees and was ordained to the priesthood (in 1991). God’s continual creating Spirit always amazes and humbles me. My husband Eric is a dermatologist with a practice in Middletown. A gift to me, as I love beaches and sitting in the sun. I also enjoy swimming, cycling, and walking our Brittany Spaniel, Coleman. Whenever we can, we see Eric’s three grown children and three grandchildren, who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn (NY) and Southington, CT. Eric and I live in Deep River.

 

New York bishop finds her spiritual center atop a motorcycle

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 4:36pm

Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe of the Diocese of Central New York laughs while sitting on her new Harley-Davidson Softail Slim, which she will ride at a Blessing of the Bikes event May 13 in Jordan, New York. Photo: Diocese of Central New York.

[Episcopal News Service] Central New York Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe isn’t the kind of Harley-Davidson rider who publicly promotes her love of motorcycles. Riding, for her, is like a form of personal prayer, not a Sunday sermon. But on a recent ride through upstate New York, she had stopped for water at a store, and some men walked in and asked whose cool, new motorcycle was parked outside.

That’s mine, she said, striking up a conversation with the men. Eventually, their questions turn to what she does for a living.

So she told them: “Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York.” And much to her delight, the conversation turned to the topic of faith, a discussion as lively as the one about the Harley Softail Slim. Her motorcycle had become a tool for evangelism.

“It’s given me opportunities to share the love of Christ in ways that are wonderful and include other people,” Duncan-Probe told Episcopal News Service in a phone interview. “I’ve just been blessed with conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”

Duncan-Probe, 55, will drive home the power of two-wheeled evangelism on May 13 when she presides over the annual Blessing of the Bikes event at Christ Episcopal Church in Jordan, a town to the west of Syracuse. After blessing the bikes, the bishop then will hop on her Harley to participate in a group ride, weather permitting.

Bishop DeDe Duncan-Probe. Photo: Diocese of Central New York

Duncan-Probe became the first female bishop of the Diocese of Central New York in 2016. During her walkabouts, a time when bishop nominees meet with the people of a diocese, she was asked how she stays spiritually centered. She brought up the spiritual feeling she gets riding a motorcycle down country highways with the wind hitting her face.

“When I get out on the motorcycle, I feel in touch with God in a way,” she told ENS. “It’s very centering. It’s just a real sense of renewal for me.”

And after just a few minutes on the bike, she added, she feels like she’s 15 again.

That’s how old she was when she first started riding motorcycles in her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Her brothers offered to let her ride behind them on a Yamaha 100, but her father insisted that she learn to ride on her own. She earned a motorcycle license before she learned how to drive a car.

She rode motorcycles off and on through high school and college, but when she moved to California to pursue graduate studies, she mostly gave up riding.

About five or six years ago, after being ordained as an Episcopal priest and while serving as a rector at St. Peter’s in the Wood Church in Fairfax, Virginia, she was at the church one Sunday morning in May when she heard a low rumble.

“The windows of the church were open. It was a nice day, and you could hear the motorcycles go by,” she said. It was the annual Rolling Thunder ride, when hundreds of thousands of Harley riders converge on the Capital Region to honor military veterans and those lost at war, and the sound made her think how much she missed riding.

She and her husband, who rode dirt bikes in his youth, decided to take a motorcycle safety class with their oldest son (they have three children). Then a few years ago, Duncan-Probe bought a used Harley, and this spring, her husband bought her a new Harley, the Softail, for her birthday.

They are mindful of safety precautions, riding only during daylight hours and avoiding rainy days. And Duncan-Probe said she prefers the country roads outside of Syracuse  to city streets or freeways. There is a “prayerfulness” to those rides, she said, something she missed during the years she had given up riding regularly.

She also feels drawn to the community of riders. Although new to Harleys, “it has opened up an opportunity for connecting with people I wouldn’t normally have connected with,” she said.

On a trip to a local Harley dealership to pick up a part, she encountered a large group of riders and was struck by how they all came from different backgrounds but were united in their love of motorcycles.

“As we started talking there was such hospitality and community and life, and I found it very humbling, because they welcomed me as I was,” Duncan-Probe said.

She sees parallels with the Episcopal Church. “God welcomes all of us as we are and into this community of faith.”

Now that her passion has become more public, she’s not interested in being known as the “biker bishop.” Rather, she encourages all Episcopalians to embrace what centers them in their faith – “those things that really connect us with God” – whether it be prayer, meditation, gardening, hiking or riding a Harley Softail along the scenic shores of New York’s Finger Lakes.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Joel Pachao elected Episcopal Church in the Philippines prime bishop

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 2:18pm

The Rt. Rev. Joel A. Pachao will be installed in June as the 6th prime bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. Photo: Caroline Carson

[Quezon City, Philippines]  The Rt. Rev. Joel A. Pachao was elected May 10 as the 6th prime bishop of The Episcopal Church in the Philippines.

Pachao, 61, is currently the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Central Philippines, based in Baguio City in Benguet Province. He was one of three nominees.

In order to be elected, a candidate needed to receive a simple majority of votes from both clergy and the lay delegates, voting separately on the same balloting round. Pachao was elected on the second ballot, receiving 44 clergy votes and 39 lay votes, with 36 and 32 needed, respectively, for election.

The election took place during the church’s 10th Regular Synod being held May 9-12 at the church’s national compound in Cathedral Heights here.

“Over the years we have been guided by the Five Marks of Mission in our mission planning and much has been accomplished, so there is no need to change,” Pachao said. “All the more, there is need for the whole ECP to take the Five Marks of Mission seriously and purposefully to heart and let them guide our life, our mission, and our ministry as a church. What we need to do is to build on what has been accomplished. This we can do even as we seek additional ways of living out the Five Marks of Mission in the light of new challenges that come our way.”

“Perhaps we can learn from government. Each time a new administration takes over, most, if not all, previous priorities are abandoned and new plans and programs take their place covered by new rules. This must be avoided in the church. We do not live from one administration to the other, but rather, we exist to do the unchanging mission of Christ.”

Pachao will be installed as prime bishop in June during a worship service at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John in Quezon City. Current Prime Bishop Renato Abibico will preside.

Pachao was ordained a priest in 1982 after graduating from St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary in Quezon City in 1980. He served as priest in seven locations until his consecration as bishop in 1993 at the Pro-Cathedral of The Resurrection in Baguio City. He is married to Precilla Gacod, and they have two grown children, Kelcy Pachao Salinas and Kent Pachao who are both nurses and currently reside in London.

The other nominees in the election were: Bishop Brent Harry W. Alawas (Diocese of Northern Philippines) and Bishop Dixie Copanut Taclobao (Diocese of Central Philippines).

The Episcopal Church in the Philippines began as a missionary diocese of the U.S.-based-Episcopal Church and became an independent church in the Anglican Communion in 1998. In February, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and Abibico signed a concordat on provincial companionship.

Caroline Carson is a seminarian at the Sewanee School of Theology and is currently in the Philippines on grants from the Seminary Consultation on Mission and the Episcopal Church Global Missions office.

Mothers’ Union program gives boost to disadvantaged communities in Burundi

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 12:22pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A Mothers’ Union program to reach the most disadvantaged communities in Burundi has produced startling results, bucking the trend in one of the world’s poorest countries. The Literacy and Financial Education Program, which has been jointly funded by Comic Relief, has helped over 14,000 men and women to read and write, as well as furnishing many with business skills and the confidence to advocate on issues such as gender-based violence and access to education for women and young girls.

Full article.

RIP: The Rev. Karl Edwin Bell of Minnesota

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 12:11pm

The Rev. Karl Edwin Bell, 84, of Fifty Lakes and Minneapolis, Minnesota, passed away peacefully on April 27 after a long and courageous battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

A native of St Paul, Minnesota, he was the son of Clifford P. Bell and Louise (Hammerbacher) Bell. He was a graduate of St. Thomas Academy, the University of Minnesota and the Episcopal Church’s Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. In 1961 he was ordained at the Cathedral of our Merciful Savior in Faribault, Minnesota, where he was assigned curate. Shortly thereafter he was named the first full-time, resident chaplain at Shattuck School in Faribault.

From Shattuck School he moved to establish the new mission congregation of St Paul’s Church in Naples, Florida. From Florida, the missionary spirit led him to St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Caracas, Venezuela, where he served the wide and diverse English-speaking community. After five years in Venezuela he returned to his native Minnesota and to Christ Church, in Albert Lea. From Albert Lea he moved to Christ Church in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, where he was an instrumental and proactive force in the resettlement of the Hmong population.

In 1992 he moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, where he spent 10 years as rector of the Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury, part of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. Under his guidance, the congregation flourished. Following his success at St. Augustine, he was asked to go to Clermont-Ferrand, France, and help grow the new mission church there.

In 2004, the Rev. Bell retired from active ministry and returned to his native Minnesota and to his family’s lake home in Fifty Lakes. He spent the final 12 years of his ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Aitkin, Minnesota, until October 2016.

In the 56 years since his ordination, he touched and influenced countless lives in Germany, France, Venezuela, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond. From Hmong refugees to troubled youth to regular parishioners and his neighbors in Fifty Lakes, he will be remembered for his kindness, his humor and his respect for all people.

He is survived by his daughter, Dianne Bell (David Eenigenburg), and son, Andrew Bell (Carrie), both of Minneapolis, and four grandchildren: Amelia, Nicholas, Jakob and Luke. He is also survived by his sister, Donna Sperr, of Daytona Beach, Florida. The funeral was held on April 30 at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

Memorials directed to the family at 2430 Cedar Lane, Minneapolis, MN 55416 will go towards conservation efforts to improve the lake water quality of Mitchell Lake in Fifty Lakes, where he lived. Checks can be made out to the Fifty Lakes Property Owners Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting responsible stewardship of land and water resources in Fifty Lakes.

Former bishop convicted of automobile manslaughter denied parole

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 1:38pm

[Episcopal News Service] Former Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook May 9 failed in her parole bid for early release on her seven-year prison sentence for fatally striking a bicyclist on Dec. 27, 2014, while texting and driving drunk, and then leaving the scene.

The Maryland Parole Commission denied her request after a hearing at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, where Cook, 60, has been serving her sentence since October 2015.

Cook pleaded guilty in September 2015 to automobile manslaughter and three other criminal charges for causing the car-bicycle accident in suburban Baltimore that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo, a 41-year-old software engineer at Johns Hopkins Hospital who also built custom bike frames. He was married and the father of two young children.

The charges included driving while having nearly three times the legal limit of alcohol in her blood system, texting while driving and then leaving the scene of the accident. Cook originally faced 13 charges relating to the fatal accident.

Under Maryland law, Cook would have been eligible for parole after serving a quarter of her sentence. She reaches that date in July.

Commission chair David Blumberg told the Associated Press that the commission refused Cook’s request outright, meaning she must serve her sentence until her mandatory release date in March 2020. However, he said if she earns time-off credits, she would get out sometime in 2019. He said the decision of the two commissioners was unanimous.

“Also, she left the scene of the accident,” Blumberg said. “The cyclist’s helmet was actually stuck in her windshield. When she went home she did not call 911 or emergency personnel, she made two calls, one to her boyfriend and one to a co-worker. During the [parole] hearing, she did not accept responsibility. She lacked remorse. She called it ‘a brutal irony.’ And she did not apologize to the victim at any time. She avoided answering the commissioners’ questions, and overall they felt she was definitely not worthy of a discretionary early release.”

The refusal was also based partly on this being Cook’s second alcohol-related offense, he said. Cook was arrested in 2010  for driving under the influence of alcohol and for marijuana possession. She received a “probation before judgment” sentence.

After Tuesday’s hearing, Rachel Palermo, the victim’s widow, said, “To me today is really about Tom. It is also about those who continue to love him and feel his loss. And so I ask this: if you still talk on your phone or text while driving, please put your phone down. If you plan to go out and drink, please set up a ride before you go. I want you to think of a 6- and an 8-year-old who wish their dad was still here. I want you to think of me and my pain. I want you to think of Tom’s parents and their loss. I want you to think of your own loved ones.”

Ahead of the hearing, cycling advocates wrote an open letter to Blumberg asking that the commission deny Cook’s request for early release.

On May 1, 2015, then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori announced that she and Cook had reached an agreement that deprived her of her status as an ordained person in the Episcopal Church and ended all ecclesiastical disciplinary matters pending against her. That announcement came on the same day that Maryland Bishop Eugene T. Sutton said he had accepted Cook’s resignation from her diocesan post.

Prompted by Cook’s case, the Church’s General Convention in 2015 passed three resolutions meant to:

  • acknowledge the church’s role in the culture of alcohol and drug abuse,
  • adopt a policy on alcohol and other substance misuse and encourage dioceses, congregations, seminaries, schools, young adult ministries and affiliated institutions to update their policies on the use of alcohol and other substances, and
  • question ordinands at the very beginning of their discernment process about addiction and substance use in their lives and family systems.

Attorneys for Cook and the Palermo family said during her October 2015 sentencing hearing that they had resolved any civil liability arising out of the fatal accident, according to the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

Cook addressed the Palermo family after their testimony at that hearing. “I am so sorry for the grief and the agony I have caused,” she said, according to the Sun. “This is my fault. I accept complete responsibility.”

Cook was taken in custody when the sentencing hearing ended. She had been free on $2.5 million bail.

Primate appointed in newly created Province of Sudan

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 12:16pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Most Rev. Ezekiel Kumir Kondo, archbishop of the Internal Province of Sudan and bishop of Khartoum, has been appointed as the primate of the newly created separate Province of Sudan. The Anglican Communion announced the creation of the new province earlier this year, and the archbishop of Canterbury will travel to the region for the inauguration at the end of July.

Full article.

Diocese of Delaware announces bishop slate

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 11:54am

[Episcopal News Service] The Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware has announced a slate of four nominees to stand for election as the 11th bishop of the diocese.

The four nominees are:

A video and more detailed information on each of the candidates can be found here.

The electing convention is set for July 15. The 11th bishop will succeed the Rt. Rev. Wayne Wright, who retired in February. Until the next bishop is ordained and consecrated Dec. 9, the Standing Committee is the ecclesiastical authority in the diocese. Retired Diocese of Easton Bishop James J. “Bud” Shand, who served the Diocese of Easton, has been handling episcopal duties such as confirmations and retired Maryland Bishop Robert Ihloff will help out in the summer, according to Delaware Communications Manager Cynde Bimbi

Wright had served the diocese since his ordination and consecration on June 20, 1998.

The standing committee said that the slate is the result of an eight-month discernment process that began with the compilation of a diocesan profile. That profile began with input from more than 600 surveys and 29 town-hall meetings throughout the diocese.

A petition process for submitting additional names is open until May 13th. Information about the petition process and the petition forms are available on the candidate page of the diocesan website.

Archbishop of Canterbury talks of suffering during sermon at St George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 10:59am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The experience of the church in this region has been of a suffering church for centuries. Sometimes life has been better, sometimes it is less bad. But the nature of suffering is that when it is happening it is all consuming. Every part of life is dominated by it. That is true whether you are a Christian or not, but in this region in addition to the suffering of war, conflict and the tragedies of death and injustice Christians especially are experiencing persecution, are especially threatened.

Full article.

Helena Scott named FRRME America project officer for Jordan

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 10:49am

The American Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME America) is pleased to announce that Helena K. Scott has been named project officer for Jordan.

An honors graduate of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Scott read Persian and Middle Eastern history and Arabic and Islamic studies. While at SOAS, she volunteered with the school’s detainee support group. Scott also studied modern Arabic at the Sana’a Institute for the Arabic Language in Yemen and worked as an instructor at Yemen’s Elite Institute, teaching conversational English to Arabic speakers. Since 2015, Scott has served as a volunteer with the AYENDA Foundation, the Afghan Children’s Initiative.

Her previous experience includes serving as the practice manager and paralegal for an international law firm in Kabul, Afghanistan, and more recently as the assistant to Ambassador Said T. Jawad, senior political and foreign policy advisor to the CEO of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C.

Scott is a former volunteer with FRRME, having supported staff with event planning, administrative work and international travel arrangements while attending school in the United Kingdom.

“Helena Scott is the perfect choice to serve as our project officer in Jordan,” said FRRME America Chairman Scott Rye. “Helena speaks Arabic, she has an affinity for the culture, and she has a true heart for relief and reconciliation work. The fact that she is familiar with the foundation and has worked with FRRME as a volunteer in the past, is just icing on the cake.”

Scott said, “I am thrilled to join FRRME America and FRRME, whose work I have long admired. FRRME’s mission to ease the plight of refugees is more critical now than ever, and I’m excited to join the team and contribute to its efforts. I look forward to using my background to help give a voice to the displaced and persecuted, and fight for those who are most in need of relief.”

FRRME America and FRRME work with a number of local churches and other partners in Jordan serving the Iraqi and Syrian refugee populations who have fled persecution and genocide, violence and poverty.

FRRME America is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation, provides relief efforts, advances human rights, and seeks an end to sectarian violence in the Middle East.

Scott MacDougall named CDSP assistant professor of theology

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 5:01pm

[Church Divinity School of the Pacific] Scott MacDougall, a scholar whose research centers on ecclesiology and eschatology, has been named assistant professor of theology at Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

MacDougall, who holds a master of arts in theology from General Theological Seminary and a PhD from Fordham University, has been a visiting assistant professor at CDSP since 2015. He has also taught at Fordham.

“During the last two academic years, all of us at CDSP have benefitted from Scott’s clear theological voice, his enthusiasm for seminary life, and his passion for theological dialogue and reflection. I am delighted that he has agreed to accept this position and continue shaping leaders for the church’s future,” said the Very Rev. W. Mark Richardson, who was MacDougall’s advisor at General Theological Seminary.

MacDougall is the author of “More Than Communion: Imagining an Eschatological Ecclesiology,” published in 2015 by Bloomsbury –T&T Clark, and has written for Huffington Post, Religion Dispatches and academic publications including the Anglican Theological Review, where he serves on the editorial committee. He has also appeared several times on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast.

“It’s a real honor to join CDSP’s faculty at this point in the institution’s life,” said MacDougall. “CDSP is seminary on the rise. Training clergy and laity for service in Christ’s church in a new age is no easy task. But that’s what CDSP is doing and I am excited to continue contributing to that work.”

MacDougall is also an experienced grants manager who has worked for the Rockefeller Foundation and consulted for the Open Society Foundations, is married to Michael Angelo, founder and creative director of the prestigious Michael Angelo’s Wonderland Beauty Parlor in New York.

Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a seminary of the Episcopal Church and a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, educates students in an ecumenical and interreligious context to develop leaders who can proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world through traditional and emerging ministries. Learn more at www.cdsp.edu.

St. Jude’s Cathedral in Canadian Arctic pays off its debt after years of fundraising

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 4:51pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Twelve years after St. Jude’s Cathedral – the iconic house of worship in Iqaluit, Nunavut was destroyed by arson – the Diocese of the Arctic has announced it has finally paid off the debt accrued in rebuilding it. “We’re pretty excited about that,” said Suffragan Bishop Darren McCartney, who oversees the eastern regions of the diocese of the Arctic. “[It is] a big weight off our shoulders.”

Read the full article here.

May 21 set as global day of prayer to end famine

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 4:49pm

[World Council of Churches] As more people face famine today than any time in modern history, the World Council of Churches (WCC) together with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) and a range of faith-based partners and networks invite a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine on May 21, 2017, in response to the hunger crisis.

Read the full article here.

Archbishop of Canterbury on first visit to Gaza

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 2:01pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop Justin Welby, accompanied by the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, has visited two hospitals in Gaza City, led worship in the chapel of the city’s Anglican hospital, and met members of Gaza’s Christian community on the third day of his official trip to the Holy Land.

Read the full article here.

Episcopal Church is ‘Awakening the Spirit’ in West Missouri revival

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 1:00pm

An electronic billboard near the venue for the Diocese of West Missouri’s “Awakening the Spirit” revival May 6-7 is advertising the event. Photos: Diocese of West Missouri

[Episcopal News Service] It is safe to say that never has an Episcopal revival competed with a Kentucky Derby party or been the unofficial opening act for a Garth Brooks concert.

Until now.

On the afternoon of May 6 in the Power & Light District of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, all three events coincide in what those involved in planning “Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri” say will be a perfect opportunity to show the city what the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement is all about.

“If Jesus came back today, where would he go to make his mark?” the Rev. Steve Rottgers, Diocese of West Missouri’s canon to the ordinary and Awakening organizer, asked rhetorically.

Two places, he suggested, would be the vibrant P&L, as it is known, and Hammons Field, a minor-league baseball park in downtown Springfield, Missouri. Springfield is in the southern part of a diocese that stretches north to south from Iowa to Arkansas.

In Kansas City, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and others will have the Kansas City Live stage from noon to 3 p.m. The venue covers an entire city block and features two surrounding levels of restaurants, taverns and nightspots. The stage area seats 800 people but thousands potentially will be wandering through the venues. Some will be headed for the No Other Pub, which is hosting a sold-out Derby viewing party beginning at 2 p.m. to raise money for two local children’s charities. Some will also be streaming into the P&L District for the 3 p.m. Garth Brooks concert at the Sprint Center next door.

On May 7, the Awakening moves south to Springfield and Hammons Field. “I can’t think of a better idea than putting the presiding bishop at home plate to knock a home run,” said Rottgers.

A few blocks away the Springfield Artsfest will be in its final day. Members of diocesan youth groups will be doing Jesus-related arts and crafts in a booth there and handing out flyers about the revival.

The Kansas City Live stage (under the curved purple roof in photo center) in the Power and Light District of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, will be the setting for the May 6 session of the Diocese of West Missouri’s “Awakening the Spirit” revival. Photo: The Cordish Companies

West Missouri’s Awakening will be nothing like the first Episcopal Church revival, which took place Feb. 3-5 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. West Missouri is not even using the term “revival.” That is the point: The Episcopal Church’s six revivals planned for this year and next are not cookie-cutter events designed to be replicated in every place.

“Every one of these Episcopal revivals is going to be different because every one of them is a unique answer to the question: What does the good news of Jesus Christ look and sound like where you are?” explained the Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation.

In Pittsburgh, the good news was centered, she said, on reconciliation, crossing racial and geographic boundaries, praying together and healing broken communities. The gatherings tailored for that work took place in two Episcopal churches in Pittsburgh and one in McKeesport and at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

“In West Missouri, Springfield and Kansas City, the good news looks like a vibrant loving church in the public square, full on,” Spellers said.

The goal is the same. “Our great hope is that these revivals both awaken the spirit within Episcopalians and with the communities around us,” she said. “And that Episcopalians will grow in their love for Jesus even as we welcome our neighbors into this loving, life-giving, liberating way with Jesus and as we join together in the Jesus Movement that changes us and changes society.”

Guide to weekend coverage

Livestreaming: https://fb.me/episcopalian
Instagram: @theepiscopalchurch @pb_curry
Twitter: @iamepiscopalian @diowestmo @PB_curry @sspellers
Hashtags: #episcopal #jesusmovement #dwmo
ENS: Live social media updates

Spellers said it is “very Anglican to pray for social and personal conversion.”

“The revival is never just about the big event. It’s actually a campaign to grow the evangelism capacity of Episcopalians in an area,” Spellers said. “We know that there will be this awakening of the spirit on those days but the spirit has awakened in West Missouri in all the steps leading this and will continue to stir the spirit afterward. That’s the point of a revival.”

Once the diocese has discerned what enacting the good news of Jesus would look like in its communities, members of the church-wide staff come to the diocese to help with organizational details and to begin that work of capacity building. Moreover, they return to the dioceses after the events to work with Episcopalians to cultivate leaders who have new abilities, new relationships and a new common purpose to further enact Jesus’ love in their communities.

In West Missouri, some steps leading up the two-day events have been big and visible, such as more than 200 people taking evangelism training earlier this year. Similar training will take place in each of the dioceses hosting revivals. Rottgers said many congregations have already done evangelism training, and more is set for this summer.

“We’re hoping to break down the barriers that have kept Episcopalians from being authentic Christians,” he said, such as “people get into cliques or they don’t talk, or they won’t share or when newcomers show up they shy away.”

“We’re looking for this as a way to wake us up,” he said.

Other steps were behind the scenes. For instance, Rottgers agreed to book the Kansas City Live stage without knowing just how the diocese would cover the $18,000 rental cost. Then he mentioned the plan to a lay member of the diocese who wrote a check for just less than $10,000 as the “down payment.”

“This is Holy Spirit stuff,” Rottgers said.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will be in the Hammons Field batter’s box May 7 for the second day of “Awakening the Spirit in West Missouri,” the Diocese of West Missouri’s revival. Photo: SpringfieldMO.org

When he called Hammons Field to ask about its availability, the afternoon of May 7 turned out to be a rare time when neither the Springfield Cardinals baseball team nor the Missouri State and Southern Missouri University teams had home games. The rental fee for the stadium is $1,500. Leasing the parking lot across the street and charging $5 a car will make the entire Springfield event pay for itself, according to Rottgers.

While these Episcopal revivals are not just about “energized worship,” in Spellers words, worship is at the center in both Kansas City and Springfield. Both services will include a wide variety of hymns, liturgical dancers from St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church and musicians playing instruments ranging from brass to washboards. The Sudanese music and drum group from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church will offer the call to worship.

In Springfield, a bluegrass band from Branson, Missouri, will provide the prelude and a gospel choir will back Curry from the two sections behind home plate. And ballpark food – hot dogs, hamburgers, peanuts, popcorn and beer – will be for sale.

Speakers, including Spellers, Consulting Evangelist for Revivals Carrie Boren Headington, who is helping organize the revivals, and West Missouri Bishop Martin Field, will warm up the crowd ahead of Curry’s sermon.

Prayer teams of lay and clergy will spend nearly 20 minutes of the service at stations offering prayers and anointing for reconciliation, re-affirmation of faith and/or healing. “It’ll be kind of like an Episcopal altar call,” Rottgers said.

Cards featuring three ways to electronically follow the order of service will be handed out, said Rottgers.

“Of course, people will be wondering what’s going on in there,” Spellers said. “We’re not going to wait for them to come in, there will also be Episcopalians going out into those crowds” to hand out those cards, answer questions and connect with people.

Nearly 800 people can fit into the Kansas City Live stage area, and hundreds, if not thousands, of other people will be milling around the area during the May 6 session of the Diocese of West Missouri’s “Awakening the Spirit” revival. Photo: The Cordish Companies

West Missouri’s Awakening is the second of the six revivals. The next four revivals are:

  • Sept. 17: Diocese of Georgia
  • Nov. 17-19: Diocese of San Joaquin (California)
  • April 6-8, 2018: Diocese of Honduras
  • July 2018: Joint Evangelism Mission with the Church of England

The Georgia event will look like a more old-fashioned Sunday afternoon tent meeting. Being held at the diocese’s Honey Creek Retreat Center, it will mark the new feast day of Deaconess Anna Alexander, the first black female deacon in the Episcopal Church.

In San Joaquin, Episcopalians plan to celebrate the return of their cathedral building after the majority of diocesan members and leaders left the Episcopal Church in 2007 but attempted to retain Church property. Bishop David Rice will be seated in the cathedral.

The revival will emphasize that for San Joaquin Episcopalians, the good news of Jesus means being in solidarity with immigrants and being “a loving and liberating church out loud [and in public] with no apologies. And it looks like being a resurrection church because, God knows, that is what they are in San Joaquin,” Spellers said.

The revival idea is catching on across the Episcopal Church. For instance, she said, Iowa Bishop Alan Scarfe has asked his diocese for the next three years to turn each of his congregational visitations into revivals. The diocese developed a toolkit and other resources for doing so. The visitation/revival that had been set for the first weekend in May, however, has been cancelled and the church is bussing people to the West Missouri revival.

Spellers said she and others “are trying hard to share resources and connect groups that are hosting revivals so that we can learn from each and pray for each other.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is senior editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows devient la onzième évêque d’Indianapolis et la première femme noire à la tête d’un diocèse de l’Église épiscopale

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 7:37am

L’évêque Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows salue la congrégation lors de sa consécration, sous le regard de l’évêque Barbara Harris, au centre, et de l’évêque Catherine Waynick, à gauche, regardent. Photo : Meghan McConnell

[Diocèse d’Indianapolis] La révérende Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows a, le 29 avril, été ordonnée et consacrée onzième évêque d’Indianapolis , faisant d’elle la première femme noire à diriger un diocèse de toute l’histoire de l’Église épiscopale et la première femme à succéder à une autre femme en tant qu’évêque diocésaine.

L’Évêque Primat Michael Curry a dirigé la cérémonie en tant que consécrateur principal et était accompagné par plus de quarante évêques de toute l’église. Près de 1 400 fidèles ont participé au service qui s’est déroulé dans le Clowes Hall sur le campus de Butler University. Jeffrey D. Lee du diocèse de Chicago a  prêché. Depuis 2012 jusqu’à son élection en tant qu’évêque, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows a fait partie du personnel de Jeffrey Lee entant que directrice du réseautage du diocèse de Chicago.

« Indianapolis, vous avez appelé un pasteur fort, aimant et avisé à devenir votre évêque », a déclaré Jeffrey Lee, dans son sermon, interrompu à plusieurs reprises par les applaudissements. « Elle vous aimera, vous mettra au défi, vous dira la vérité comme elle la voit et vous invitera à lui dire comment vous, vous la voyez. Elle priera avec vous à tout moment et s’occupera de vous sans entraver vos propres actions. Elle vous fera découvrir votre pouvoir. Elle dirigera. Comptez-y ».

Parmi les co-consécrateurs se trouvaient Barbara Harris, première femme évêque de la Communion anglicane. Avant la consécration, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows a confié à l’Indianapolis Star : « la première chose qui me vient à l’esprit est combien je suis reconnaissante envers les femmes qui m’ont précédée. Barbara Harris sera là à ma consécration et lorsque je pense à ce qu’elle a fait pour moi et comment j’ai même rencontré des petites filles qui disaient : « Oh mon dieu. Peut-être un jour entendrais-je un tel appel ?’ Tout est dit ».

L’évêque Catherine Waynick remet la crosse à l’évêque Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows. Lors de la consécration de samedi, c’était la première fois de l’histoire de l’Église épiscopale qu’une femme évêque a transmis le pouvoir à une autre femme évêque. Photo : Meghan McConnell

Barbara Harris a en 2003 pris sa retraite d’évêque suffragant du Massachusetts et a été remplacée par Gayle Harris (sans relation de famille), également consécratrice de Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows. Les autres consécrateurs principaux étaient l’évêque Catherine Waynick (sa prédécesseure), Douglas Sparks, évêque du Nord de l’Indiana, Robert Wright, évêque d’Atlanta et William Gafkjen, évêque du Synode américain d’Indiana-Kentucky de l’Église évangélique luthérienne.

L’ordre de service de la cérémonie d’ordination et de consécration se trouve ici.

Elle a été installée le lendemain dans la cathédrale Christ Church d’Indianapolis.

Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows a été élue en octobre par le clergé et les leaders laïcs du diocèse de l’Église épiscopale d’Indianapolis pour diriger 48 congrégations qui comprennent près de 10 000 épiscopaliens du centre et du sud de l’Indiana. Elle succède à Catherine Waynick, qui a dirigé le diocèse d’Indianapolis pendant 20 ans et était l’une des premières femmes évêques de l’Église épiscopale.

« Situé au carrefour de l’Amérique, ce diocèse s’est donné une mission spéciale pour apporter guérison, espoir et amour dans un monde trop souvent craintif, blessé et divisé », a déclaré Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows avant son élection. « Je vois le diocèse d’Indianapolis comme une communauté d’espoir inclusive portant la lumière de Jésus-Christ dans le centre et le sud de l’Indiana et dans le monde ».

Avant de travailler à Chicago, Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows était rectrice de Grace Episcopal Church à Syracuse (État de New York) et également aumônier épiscopal à Syracuse University. Elle a obtenu une licence à Smith College, une maîtrise du programme Historic preservation planning de l’université Cornell et une maîtrise en théologie à Church Divinity School of the Pacific. Elle et son mari, Harrison, se sont rencontrés lors de son ordination à la prêtrise en 1998 et se sont mariés en 2003. Ils ont un fils, Timothy, âgé de six ans qui est en maternelle à St. Richard’s Episcopal School à Indianapolis.

Bishop of Costa Rica to join Diocese of Texas staff

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 4:59pm

[Diocese of Texas press release] The Rt. Rev. Hector Monterroso, bishop of Costa Rica, has accepted the position of assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, Bishop Andy Doyle announced. Monterroso will begin work July 1, 2017, and will serve as bishop of the southern region of the diocese. Elected delegates approved the position at the diocese’s annual meeting February 12, 2017, in Galveston.

Citing their mutual vision of mission and evangelism, Bishop Doyle said Monterroso’s addition will continue to strengthen the growth in both Hispanic congregations as well as new missional communities and church plants in the Diocese of Texas. “I’m thrilled Bishop Monterroso has accepted my invitation to join our diocesan staff,” Bishop Doyle said. “He has a heart for mission and will be a great presence in our congregations. He will also help raise up leaders within the Hispanic congregations, although he will not minister in these communities exclusively.”

For his part, Bishop Monterroso said, “I identified with Bishop Doyle’s vision of missional communities and expansion.”  While other dioceses in the U.S. had approached him previously, Bishop Monterroso said he felt most aligned with Bishop Doyle and the Diocese of Texas. “Let’s say it was a nudge from the Holy Spirit first,” he said, “but I recognized that this invitation was a great opportunity to do something new and challenging. It’s a good time for the Diocese of Costa Rica and a good time for me and my family.”

Monterroso joins Bishop Doyle, and Bishops Suffragan Dena Harrison and Jeff Fisher to provide an episcopal presence in the diocese’s more than 200 Episcopal faith communities: 154 congregations (three with second sites), 35 missional communities, 14 college ministries and numerous institutions. He will visit 45 congregations during the year; primarily in the southern region of the Diocese of Texas; chair the board of St. Vincent’s House, a social service agency in Galveston; support growth of multicultural presence in our congregations and help to create a strategy for new ethnic church plants and missional communities. Additionally, Bishop Monterroso will work to identify vocational leaders within the Hispanic congregations.

Originally from Guatemala, Bishop Monterroso has made great strides in the Diocese of Costa Rica during his 14-year tenure, securing its financial stability, increasing the number of clergy from seven to 29, assuring that most congregations are self-sustaining, and gaining governmental recognition for many of the Diocese’s programs.

On April 30, he preached at Palmer Memorial Church in Houston and later, spent the day with church members serving in the community. In his sermon that morning, Bishop Monterroso recounted the story of eight women who, a decade ago, sought space to store their sewing machines. Turned away by a number of other churches, Iglesia Ascencion gave them a small room even though the small Episcopal congregation in a poor neighborhood of San Jose had little itself. Church members later learned the eight women also carried the burden of being HIV positive.

“We did not have much to offer other than a small space in our building, but we had the hope that, through our faith, we could do great things, and through the love of God, everything is transformable,” Bishop Monterroso said. Today, the women have created an official association, Esperanza Viva, with more than 250 members. While they are poor, they “have an enduring spirit and steadfast values,” the Bishop said, acknowledging the opportunity for service their presence has provided to the church. Esperanza Viva recently signed an agreement with the World Bank to begin a pilot project to speak in schools about HIV prevention and, in cooperation with the Episcopal Church, they now have a training center, clinic and micro-enterprise facility.

“All of this was possible simply because we opened our eyes and our doors to these women who sought our help,” Bishop Monterroso said. This is the spirit of mission and ministry he brings to the Diocese of Texas.

Bishop Monterroso earned a Precision Mechanics and Industrial Maintenance degree and worked in the rum industry in Guatemala before attending seminary. A lifelong Episcopalian, he served as an acolyte when he was just seven years old in a new church, founded in his parent’s home. His wife Sandra studied in the United States before their marriage 32 years ago and serves as principal at one of the Diocese of Costa Rica’s Episcopal schools that provide education to some of the country’s poorest children. Their daughter Beatriz, 28, is a medical doctor in San Jose and their son Hector, 24, has recently completed an engineering degree and hopes to do post-graduate work in hydraulics engineering. The Monterrosos will reside in Houston.

See more about Bishop Hector Monterroso in articles printed previously in Diolog here and here.

 

 

Sense of urgency spurs plans for Anglican university in South Sudan

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 3:33pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A charity is working with the Episcopal Church in South Sudan to open a multi-campus university within the next two years, with the aim of helping the next generation escape the violence that has plagued the country.

In 2011, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul commissioned a feasibility study to explore how the church might go about establishing a university. Just three of South Sudan’s five state universities are now operating: the other two have suspended teaching, owing to the current civil war, which erupted in 2013.

Full article.

Archbishop of Canterbury visits Holocaust museum with chief rabbi after praying at Western Wall

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 3:29pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis have visited Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, to remember and lament the tragedy of the Holocaust and the implications and effects it has subsequently had on so many lives. Earlier they prayed for peace at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Speaking at Yad Vashem, the archbishop acknowledged the history of anti-Semitism in the Anglican Church and restated his commitment to continue efforts to stop anti-Semitism.

Full article.

Congregation’s play about drug epidemic aims to bolster community support for recovery

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 1:00pm

Willow Fodor and Sean Jones play grandparents who adopt their granddaughter after she’s been abandoned by her drug-addicted mother in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s production of “Least Resistance.” Photo: Luke Fodor

[Episcopal News Service] St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown, New York, wanted to do its part to help to combat the prevalence of opioid addition and overdose deaths in Western New York, but the congregation was wary of duplicating the work of well-established health and social service organizations.

So, St. Luke’s chose to support the cause the best way it could – by staging a play.

That play, “Least Resistance,” is based on dozens of interviews conducted with people in the Jamestown area who have been affected by drugs and the opioid epidemic, from an injured war veteran to grandparents forced to take custody of their grandchildren. The congregation’s hope is that by revealing the humanity behind the headlines, the production will pull the community together in support of neighbors who are recovering from similar crises.

“This is a way to tell the story in a positive way … that recovery is possible, that the community has all these people who are working hard,” said the Rev. Luke Fodor, rector at St. Luke’s. “We need to own that story.”

The play, which debuted last weekend and returns for encore performances May 5 and 6, grew out of conversations Fodor had with local religious and civic leaders after he took over at St. Luke’s about three years ago. Drug addiction was a common topic as Jamestown and Chautauqua County lost more and more residents to drug overdoses.

It is a trend that has caused alarm around the country. Opioids, including heroin, fentanyl and some prescription painkillers, are now blamed for more than six out of 10 drug overdose deaths in the United States, and the numbers of opioid overdoses has quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York State reported 2,754 drug overdose deaths in 2015. In Chautauqua County, with a population of about 135,000, the most recent state data show 15 opioid overdose deaths that year, as well as 88 emergency department visits or hospitalizations related to opioids.

What could one congregation do? Several parishioners at St. Luke’s had theater backgrounds, Fodor said, and about five years ago they had formed the Winged Ox Players, named for the traditional symbol of St. Luke. The productions typically focused on a thought-provoking work or social issue, with proceeds donated to a related cause.

Steven Cobb, 51, had been involved with Winged Ox Players from the start and now serves as artistic director. He also is a recovering drug addict.

“I had always kind of known the power of recovery stories,” Cobb told Episcopal News Service, citing his experience with 12-step programs. Fodor asked Cobb to share his story during one of St. Luke’s Sunday services.

Cobb grew up in Jamestown but left to attend college in New York City, and it was there that he got hooked on crystal meth. The addiction eventually left him homeless and jobless, and he decided to move back to Jamestown to improve his chances of staying clean. He said has been in and out of recovery for more than 15 years and sober the last seven.

Telling his story brought the reality of addiction and recovery to people in the congregation who had no personal experience with that struggle, Cobb said, and it helped remove the stigma of addiction.

That, too, is part of the mission of “Least Resistance,” the title of which refers to an addict’s successful path to recovery.

“What we need to do is create a safe space where people in recovery can feel normal in their recovery,” Fodor said.

He and Cobb had begun looking for existing plays that addressed the topic, but most of the works they found glamorized drugs, seemed out of date or simply weren’t appropriate for a family audience. Then they met Richard Olson-Walter.

Olson-Walter, 32, a native of Great Britain, had moved to Jamestown in 2015 after marrying his wife, an American woman who worked as director of youth and children’s ministries at St. Luke’s. Though he was working for a technology firm, Olson-Walter had experience writing plays, and Fodor and Cobb drafted him to write for Winged Ox Players.

But Olson-Walter had no experience with addiction and recovery, so Cobb, who works as associate director of Mental Health Association of Chautauqua County, helped arrange for Olson-Walter to interview local people affected by the drug epidemic.

More than 30 interviews later, “Least Resistance” was born. The play features 14 scenes over two acts, a mix of monologues and staged conversations, as well as a few scenes intended primarily to provide information on addiction. In the current production, 21 actors bring the characters to life.

Some of the characters are based on individuals Olson-Walter interviewed, with their names changed, while other characters are composites of multiple people. All the scenes incorporate real-life examples, with some dialogue taken word for word from the experiences shared by Jamestown residents.

One character is an Army veteran who, after being wounded in Afghanistan, was prescribed powerful painkillers. When he returned home, he realized he was addicted. Another scene portrays grandparents who have taken custody of a granddaughter who has been abandoned by a drug-addicted mother. That scene draws on the experiences of multiple grandparents interviewed for the play.

“We wanted to try and make sure we could show as many viewpoints as possible,” Olson-Walter said.

The play also features a character based on Cobb’s story of addiction and recovery. “I’ve worked very hard to accept my story and understand my story,” Cobb said, but seeing a version of himself on stage helped him confront his own lingering discomfort and even shame about his past.

He hopes the play will be helpful and cathartic for other recovering addicts, some of whom attended the first weekend’s performances.

“I’ve noticed they have been very happy to know that their story is being told to the wider community, so that the community knows of the struggles and knows of the hope,” Cobb said. “It seems to be validating to the people in recovery that the larger community is getting an honest and accurate point of view.”

After the show concludes its local run, the congregation has been in talks to stage the production in the Buffalo area later this year, and excerpts will be performed May 16 at an annual event in the Jamestown area called Hope & Healing for Chautauqua.Money raised through the play will be used to support United Christian Advocacy Network City Mission, which provides transitional housing to the homeless and those dealing with substance abuse.

Fodor said the congregation also has been contacted by churches in Georgia and Connecticut about staging their own productions of “Least Resistance.” In that way, the play can grow and evolve organically, with each production incorporating some of its own community’s stories of addiction into the work.

“My hope is the play itself becomes a tool that people can utilize it as a springboard to launch them in to more research on the matter,” Fodor said.

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

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