Anglican Church of Southern Africa launches vaccination campaign

[Anglican Church of Southern Africa] The ACSA COVID-19 Advisory Team appointed by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has launched a major new initiative to get Anglicans vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The key elements of the Anglicans Vaccinate initiative are:

• An appeal to bishops across the province to declare a COVID Vaccination Week beginning at services on Sunday Sept. 5;

• A 12-minute video to be played at services and available on YouTube. It is currently available in English but other languages are planned;

• New updated, detailed guidelines;

• The appointment of diocesan vaccine coordinators, as well as archdeaconry champions and parish coordinators.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Episcopal News

‘Wild Church’ in Northern Michigan invites spiritual seekers into the woods

UP Wild Church meets at various locations around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Photo: Lanni Lantto

[Episcopal News Service] UP Wild Church, a ministry of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, brings people of all ages and backgrounds into the woods of the Upper Peninsula for spiritual experiences. As it enters its third year, it is attracting a growing number of people who are drawn to its mix of outdoor adventures, community, quiet reflection and environmentalism.

Unlike other “wilderness churches,” it isn’t a Eucharist service in the woods. Wild Church, a collaboration with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Northern Great Lakes Synod, holds nondenominational nature prayer services and wilderness walks in the area’s abundant natural settings: protected pine forests, inland lakes and the shores of Lake Superior.

But in addition to providing a natural refuge from the chaos of modern life, Wild Church also engages with the environmental crises that threaten those places, educating people about past and present industrial destruction.

Lanni Lantto plants trees during a Wild Church outing. Photo: Chauncey Moran

“We’ve grown [because of] this need in the community to pray in certain spaces for our own healing and for the healing of the land,” said Lanni Lantto, the lay leader of Wild Church.

The idea originated during a gathering of Lutherans and Episcopalians in a park, where the conversation turned to the decreasing numbers of young adults in churches.

“What if we created an alternative?” Lantto remembers someone asking.

For Lantto, 41, appreciation and care for creation has always been central to her faith life.

“One of our vocations that God gave us is to not just tend the garden, but get to know the garden. And when you start to fall in love with what God created, you’re compelled to protect it,” she told Episcopal News Service.

After 10 years of working as a “fashion re-designer” – repurposing old materials into new garments to avoid waste – Lantto was hired as the mission developer for the Lutheran-Episcopal collaboration that became UP Wild Church. She began meeting with young adults in the Marquette area and asking them about the kinds of experiences they valued and wanted more of. Three themes emerged: nature, connection and healing from previous bad church experiences.

With the help of grants from the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, Wild Church has been meeting since July 2019, when it started with a nature prayer service at a park in Marquette. Lantto and her collaborators developed the format, which involves reading and reflecting on texts about Christian spirituality – including, but not limited to, Scripture – and creation care, a poem or two, collective prayer, some quiet time for individual reflection, a group discussion and tea.

The nature prayer services in the park have continued once a month, but Wild Church expanded beyond that, offering more services and hikes that bring people out to the Upper Peninsula’s forests and lakes. There are “Holy Hikes” for the more adventurous, as well as easier and more accessible trail walks. There are events for kids, like a foraging outing where they can learn to identify plants. For the fall, Lantto and her volunteer team have planned outings to view the autumn foliage and the migration of monarch butterflies.

UP Wild Church meets year-round and has never canceled due to weather, according to curator Lanni Lantto. Photo: Lanni Lantto

For Lantto and Wild Church, appreciating the beauty of creation also means protecting it from pollution, extractive industries and climate change – and reminding people of their own complicity in those processes, which have done lasting damage to the Upper Peninsula. Wild Church has visited the remains of an old logging camp to reflect on forest stewardship, and in September it will plant trees and go to an abandoned mining village and pray at the mouth of a cave where the miners descended. Participants also have done a “prayer sit-in” on the shore of Lake Superior to draw attention to industrial pollution on the world’s largest freshwater lake, she said.

Though it was created to meet the needs of young adults, participants have ranged from 3 months to 98 years old, with an average of about 10 people attending each event, Lantto said. They come from a variety of Christian denominations.

“During the pandemic, and within this climate of so many unknowns – including climate change – we are steady, and we are growing,” she told ENS, saying that her goal is to make the ministry sustainable. Wild Church received a $30,000 “growth grant” from Executive Council in February as a growing ministry, and Lantto is working on a fundraising appeal that can keep the ministry going without relying solely on grants or donations from attendees. (Lantto will pass around an offering plate at services, but she views attendees as “the people we’re serving,” not necessarily a source of funding.)

“We’re pretty excited about the future,” she said. “We’ve really got something where people can find healing. And we all really need to focus on that right now and to get off of our screens for a while and to go to the woods, and to have a community of people doing that together is really important.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Source: Episcopal News

COVID-19 vaccine mandates spread across The Episcopal Church

The Rev. Sean Slack gets a flu shot during the Diocese of Pennsylvania’s 2020 diocesan vaccine clinic. Dioceses have been encouraging clergy and parishioners to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but some are now making it mandatory. Photo: Diocese of Pennsylvania

[Episcopal News Service] COVID-19 vaccination mandates are gaining steam across The Episcopal Church, with two dioceses now requiring vaccination for all clergy and staff, and others issuing similar requirements as the delta variant spreads rapidly among unvaccinated people.

On Aug. 26, the Diocese of Long Island announced that all clergy and diocesan staff must be vaccinated, the second diocese this week to issue such a requirement after the Diocese of Maine.

In the Diocese of Long Island – which includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens – all clergy and diocesan staff must show proof of vaccination, effective Sept. 15. The only possible exemption is for anyone who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, in which case they would have to wear a mask at all indoor gatherings and be tested every 10 days.

“We have an obligation as the church to do everything in our power to ensure the safety and well-being of the people we are called to serve,” Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano wrote in the diocesan announcement. “Getting vaccinated is a way to express our love of God and our love of neighbor in the midst of this crisis.”

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Queens, which is affiliated with the diocese, will provide the vaccine to any member of the diocesan staff or clergy who has not received it yet, Provenzano said.

Maine Bishop Thomas Brown enacted the same requirement in his diocese on Aug. 23. In his announcement, he quoted Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s early August appeal to Episcopalians to protect themselves and their vulnerable neighbors by getting vaccinated.

The U.S. now has more than 100,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 for the first time since January, with some states reporting their highest case counts ever. The vast majority of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are unvaccinated people, who are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. Just over half of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

In response, dioceses and congregations are reinstating indoor mask requirements and other restrictions, and promoting vaccination campaigns, especially in states with increasing infection rates due to higher numbers of unvaccinated people. The Diocese of Oklahoma, for example, has now launched a video series featuring members of the dioceses – including Bishop Poulson Reed – explaining why they got vaccinated and encouraging others to do the same.

Workplace vaccine mandates are also becoming more common nationwide, which Brown referenced in his letter announcing the requirement for the Diocese of Maine.

“Public health agencies, governments, corporations, schools, and not-for-profits are also announcing mandatory vaccinations,” Brown wrote. “We are not all doing this because we are heavy-handed, but because vaccinations are the best tool we have to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Other dioceses have enacted more limited vaccine requirements. On Aug. 11, Oregon Bishop Diana Akiyama announced that all of her diocesan staff were required to get vaccinated, adding that she “strongly recommends parish clergy and lay leaders to have conversations about vaccination requirements with their staff.”

On Aug. 16, the Diocese of Massachusetts announced it would require vaccination for all clergy and lay people who work with vulnerable people, including children, homebound or immunocompromised people and those in hospitals and care facilities.

“We strongly urge vaccination against the coronavirus for all our members as soon as they are eligible,” Suffragan Bishop Gayle Harris wrote. “We reiterate, however, that our congregations must not require vaccination, nor documentation thereof, for attendance at worship services.”

At least one Episcopal church, however, is doing just that: Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, seat of the Diocese of California. Starting Aug. 29, anyone entering the cathedral to attend services or events must provide proof of vaccination, either by uploading a photo of their vaccine card through an online form in advance or showing it in person.

Some dioceses are considering vaccine mandates but have not enacted any yet, like the Diocese of Hawaii, which is experiencing its worst surge in hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

“Can the church require vaccinations of clergy and employees? The chancellor is considering guidelines, but generally the answer is ‘yes,’” Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick wrote to the diocese on Aug. 4. “I do believe this is a pastoral situation. I am not inclined to move to ‘requiring’ vaccination of the clergy and lay employees. I trust those of us serving in God’s church are morally responsible people and are willing to do the right thing for the common good, and have already been or will soon be vaccinated.”

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has developed a toolkit for individuals, congregations and ministries to facilitate and promote COVID-19 vaccine distribution in the United States. It is available in English and Spanish here.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Source: Episcopal News

Long-standing partnerships helped Episcopalians quickly respond to Haiti quake

The St. Sauveur des Cayes school in Les Cayes was so damaged beyond repair by the Aug. 14 earthquake and will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Photo: Education Equals Hope

[Episcopal News Service] In the 12 days since a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Aug. 14, and the subsequent drenching rains of Tropical Storm Grace, Episcopalians there and their ministry partners across The Episcopal Church continue to help devastated communities.

As of Aug. 24, more than 2,200 have died and some 12,300 have been injured. Over 1.2 million people have been affected, with nearly 650,000 in need of emergency humanitarian assistance in the three most affected departments (Sud, Grand’Anse and Nippes), where an estimated 130,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, according to the United Nations. (A U.N.-generated map shows the scope of the damage and ensuing needs.)

Many roads and bridges of the region’s already fragile infrastructure have been rendered unusable, making access for relief workers and supplies even more challenging. Many hospitals and clinics were also severely damaged.

Episcopalians with long-standing partnerships in Haiti responded quickly after the earthquake. For example, the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, with 40 years of partnerships in Haiti, sent money donated by parishes and individuals to Haiti by way of Partners in Health, a health-care organization that has historic connections to the diocese. Much of the diocese’s work in Haiti now supports Zanmi Lasante, the Haitian branch of Partners in Health.

 

Upper South Carolina has built more than 15 schools in Cange and over the years has provided scholarships to area children to help their families cover school-related costs. Some of those students grew up to become doctors and nurses and are now treating people injured in the quake who were evacuated to Partners in Health’s hospital in Mirebalais, according to the Rev. Susan Louttit-Hardaway who chairs the diocese’s Commission on Mission and International Concerns.

“Forty or so years of partnership with Cange and perhaps we are looking at what God had in mind all along,” she told Episcopal News Service.

Education Equals Hope, a South Carolina-based nonprofit supported by the Diocese of Upper South Carolina as well as individual Episcopalians, recently sent financial assistance to its partner schools in Haiti, according to Executive Director Celest Bundy.

Locally Haiti, a 33-year-old partnership formerly known as the Colorado Haiti Project, immediately sent money to its colleagues in Petit Trou de Nippes, a town about 8 miles from the quake’s epicenter. Wynn Walent, Locally Haiti’s executive director, told Colorado Public Radio that right after the quake their partners began building “provisional structures” to temporarily house displaced residents.

 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing violence, Walent traveled to Haiti after the quake, bringing with him supplies requested by ministry partners in Petit Trou de Nippes. Those include medical and school supplies, hygiene kits and tents to be used as classrooms and clinics.  A school supported by Locally Haiti is being used as a shelter, he said.

“We’ve been in this community for 33 years and these relationships are very personal so just to be there in person and to listen to people” is as important as the assistance he brought, Walent told Colorado Public Radio.

Episcopal Relief & Development responded within days with an initial grant to provide direct assistance to 400 families in hard-to-reach areas and on Aug. 24, it announced a partnership with Church World Service to enable the local health care center in Pestel, a coastal community due north of Les Cayes to provide primary medical care to over 10,000 people. Children and adults in the area will also receive community-based psychosocial support through existing Wozo clubs. These clubs were established by a local organization, Wozo Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, and later expanded through a partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development.

Grey Dove Inc., a medical ministry founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti by Episcopal deacon the Rev. Clelia Garrity, last week sent medical surgical supplies to the Rev. Kesner Ajax in Les Cayes. The supplies included many vials of injectable antibiotics, which Garrity said are needed for wound care. Grey Dove’s mission is to provide sustainable healthcare in developing communities in Haiti and elsewhere.

 

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg retired in July 2019 as senior editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.

Source: Episcopal News

Anglican Communion formally approves new province in Africa

[Anglican Church of Southern Africa] The Anglican Communion has formally approved the formation of a new province of the Communion, to be entitled Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA, or the Anglican Church of Mozambique and Angola). The new province will be inaugurated in September, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, told Archbishop Thabo Makgoba in a letter.

The formation of a new province requires the votes of two-thirds of the primates of the provinces of the Communion. Idowu-Fearon said 29 member churches had consented to the development. One province had abstained and no objections had been received.

IAMA will hold its inaugural provincial synod in September and hold a livestreamed inauguration service on Sept. 24, the last day of ACSA’s 2021 provincial synod.

Source: Episcopal News

Beloved Community grant allows for expansion of Chicago’s antiracism program to educate children

[Diocese of Chicago] Last summer, in the wake of protests over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Will Bouvel and Jen Holt Enriquez enrolled in an online class about talking with children about racism. The class was secular in approach, but Bouvel, director of children’s ministries at St. Chrysostom’s, Chicago, and Enriquez, director of Christian formation at St. Christopher’s, Oak Park, recognized each other from their work in the Diocese of Chicago.

The class, Bouvel recalls, was ultimately unsatisfying. “We took it offline and said, ‘We should do this through faith,’” he said. “It was very difficult to talk about racism in a secular frame because the discussion lacked a common value system. But our faith has concepts it can offer to this big confusing problem.”

Using a Montessori-based storytelling method, the pair developed a story called The Big Lie of Racism that introduces children to the idea that “racism tells us a lie about who we are, and it is still at work in our world,” Bouvel said. “And the way we know it is a lie is what we know about ourselves through God in Jesus. Anything that says some people are better than others is not of God, and not of us.”

Using the story, which explains racism as a chain reaching across U.S. history, Enriquez and Bouvel launched a five-week Lenten children’s program called Tell Me the Truth About Racism on Ash Wednesday. The program, which included about 30 children from 20 families, culminated in students leading the renewal of the Baptismal Covenant at both congregations’ Easter Vigils.

The goal, Bouvel said, was to “hold up the children as the people who are leading us in this way. If we focus on the future and on preventing children from growing up with the racial bias we grew up with, that is a huge way for our church to show up.”

Preparing clergy, vestry and parents was key to the program’s success, Enriquez said. Knowing that parents would want ways to participate in what their children were learning, she and Bouvel convened an online discussion of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America,” a book by the Rev. Jennifer Harvey, an American Baptist pastor. The group met during Epiphany so that parents were ready for the experience their children would have during Lent.

“Parents were thankful that we were opening these discussions with kids and walking with them as they explored these issues in their families,” Enriquez said. “They were thankful that they were part of a church that was raising these issues.”

Based on the success of the pilot, Bouvel and Enriquez approached the bishop’s staff about applying for an Episcopal Church Becoming Beloved Community grant. The funds, which were awarded by the church’s Executive Council in June, will help train other Christian educators in the Diocese of Chicago and beyond to use “The Big Lie of Racism” story with children in their own congregations. Training sessions made possible by the grant will take place on evenings in September and October, and interested educators can apply online.

In preparation for expanding their program, Bouvel and Enriquez, who are both white, realized they needed guidance from Black leaders to ensure that their curriculum was culturally competent and appropriate for children from all backgrounds. They contracted with Miriam Willard McKenney, a Black Episcopal leader who works at Forward Movement and Calvary Episcopal Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Crystal Elliott-O’Connor, a Chicago-based expert in congregational care and early childhood education.

“I think that for a long time, white people have thought that the work of dismantling racism was the work of Black people,” McKenney said. “Dismantling racism is not my work. But it’s extremely important to me that it gets done, which is why I want to walk with Will and Jen. White people are often more willing to ask difficult questions about racism of other white people than of people of color. In spaces where white people are leading, other white people can say what they need to say and ask questions without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. And when I attend trainings, I open myself up for people to ask questions, because sometimes people don’t know any people of color well enough to ask the hard questions.”

McKenney, an experienced Montessori teacher and parent, also helps the program find developmentally appropriate ways to talk with young children about the violence of racism.

“We don’t have any more brutality in the story [The Big Lie of Racism] than we do in other scripture lessons,” she said. “People are dying in the Bible, and not everyone gets treated fairly. So we can tie the story back to things that happened in Bible stories kids already know. Bias starts taking root early, and my personal experience is that kids want to talk about difficult things with adults who care about them. It’s all to the glory of God and seeing God in each other, and kids can see that.”

Humility and willingness to learn is essential for white leaders working on issues of racism, Bouvel said. “We’re not going to get everything right, but when we can admit that we’re not going to get everything right, we’re more curious. But we have to try.” The fall training sessions will include Black teacher training participants, he said. “I’m really honored that people of color have looked at what we’ve done and decided to participate.”

“We’ve had really positive feedback, and Will and I both know that we can go deeper,” Enriquez said. “This work is not ‘read three books, do a workshop, check.’ We need to keep exploring.”

Parents, educators, clergy and vestry members can learn more about “Tell Me the Truth About Racism” on the program’s website and apply to take part in the fall training program online.

Source: Episcopal News

North Carolina bishops speak out against bill that would restrict how race is taught in schools

North Carolina Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple and Bishop Diocesan Samuel Rodman. Photo: Diocese of North Carolina

[Episcopal News Service] The bishops of the Diocese of North Carolina have denounced a bill passed by the state House of Representatives and currently before the state Senate that would restrict how public schools teach about race and how it relates to American history, saying it “appears intended to make people of European descent comfortable while ignoring the systems of oppression that they deployed against those of African and Native American descent.”

“House Bill 324 would put new rules on public school lessons concerning race and history,” Bishop Diocesan Samuel Rodman and Bishop Suffragan Anne Hodges-Copple wrote in an op-ed published on Aug. 14 in The (Raleigh) News & Observer, including, they say, prohibiting concepts like critical race theory. “Our deep concern is that the dangerous narrative surrounding this bill will prevent a full account of our history from being told and understood.”

Critics of the bill, which passed the House in May, say it would prevent teachers from having truthful discussions about events in American history. Supporters of the bill say it is intended to protect free thought and expression. In “ensuring dignity and nondiscrimination in schools,” the bill proposes that public schools do not promote the concept that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex” or that the belief that the U.S. is a meritocracy as an “inherently racist or sexist belief” or that “the United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex,” according to the text of the bill.

“Regardless of its language about dignity and equality,” the bishops wrote, “HB 324 appears intended to make people of European descent comfortable while ignoring the systems of oppression that they deployed against those of African and Native American descent.

“Structural racism is interwoven throughout our history and continues to impact us, in our current context.”

The controversy around the bill, and others like it, focuses on critical race theory, a field of academic study popularized in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s based on the idea that racism is embedded in societal institutions and not merely caused by individuals with racist views. Examples of this systemic racism range from slavery to housing discrimination.

Republicans have introduced similar bills in at least 23 states, passing them in eight.

The Episcopal Church has made educating and addressing systemic racism – both within and beyond the church – a priority through its Sacred Ground discussion series.

Rodman and Hodges-Copple – who represent 50,000 Episcopalians including descendants of slaves and enslavers, as well as Indigenous people – say the bill would have a chilling effect on public education and “sweep the real history of this nation, particularly its injustices, under the rug.”

“Efforts to suppress honest, thorough, authentically representative instruction run counter to the core tenets of our faith. Our faith formation is based on the principle that faith has need of the whole truth, the full story,” the bishops wrote.

“We must not be swept up in a larger movement that denies an accurate telling of how we came to be a state and a nation. Instead, we must do the hard work of repenting of our past and leading North Carolina into a healthier, transparent future.”

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at emillard@episcopalchurch.org.

Source: Episcopal News

Egypt Council of Churches sets ecumenical example

[Diocese of Egypt, Episcopal/Anglican Province of Alexandria] The Rt. Rev. Samy Fawzy, archbishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Province of Alexandria, received members of the Egypt Council of Churches committee at the church headquarters in the cathedral in Cairo on Aug. 23.

Fawzy told the members of the committee, “The members of the council are from different denominations, but the spirit of participation and joint ecumenical action sets an example for the people of the spirit of cooperation and cohesion without melting into the other and changing the identity of each church.

“When the Christian people see how much love there is among the members of the committee, in addition to its intense activity, it will create a great deal of knowledge of the council’s tasks, which will contribute to the growth of its role in society.”

The Rev. Boutros Fouad, head of the Shepherds Committee, gave an explanation of the committee’s role, such as one-day meetings for priests and conferences concerned with pastors’ affairs. Fouad invited the archbishop to attend and participate in such events.

The attendees also praised the media role played by the churches to raise awareness of various issues, stressing the tremendous development witnessed by the media and press centers of the Episcopal/Anglican Church.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Episcopal News