Thursday, September 10, 2009

Town column: Bishop's talk will cover reality and hope in Sudan

From New Hampshire-

Here is a shocking statistic: In the southern part of Sudan, a 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than of finishing school, according to an Aug. 12, 2009 report from the United Nations Mission in Sudan.

And yet, it is a place of tremendous hope, tremendous activity and tremendous evangelism as the visit from the Most Rev. Joseph Garang Atem, the Anglican bishop of Renk, Sudan to Grace Episcopal Church next Tuesday, Sept. 15 evening is expected to demonstrate.

Bishop Joseph, as he is known, presides over an Anglican diocese that just 20 years ago included a church and several dozen parishioners as it members. Today the Diocese of Renk (pronounced "rank") consists of a cathedral and more than a dozen churches. It is also the sister diocese to the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, (the label "Episcopal" denotes the American branch of the Anglican Church), which is why the bishop is visiting the greater Chicago area.

"He's very charismatic and easy to talk to," said Susan Hickey, a Grace Episcopal Church member who is helping to coordinate the Bishop's visit with the Hinsdale church.

She first met the bishop a few years ago before he was ordained bishop when he was still a priest. At that time, Hickey was an active member of the Oak Park Grace Episcopal Church which included supporting Renk ministries in its outreach efforts. The Oak Park church, she said, enjoyed supporting Anglican churches in Sudan because so much could be done with a little money.

"He's going to talk about what is happening now in Sudan, in Renk," Hickey said.

He is also expected to talk about the explosive growth of the Anglican community as the largest growing Christian community not just in Sudan but in much of Africa and about a new school that the bishop has been given permission by the Muslim-majority Sudanese government to build.

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