For the congregation of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross in Homewood, this Christmas Eve Mass was the answer to their prayers.
"This church has been needing a roof for quite a while and we finally get the roof put on. And this is our first celebration since that has been done," Hugh Blackman, a parishioner, said.
It's a welcome new beginning compared to what the congregation had to endure prior to the repairs.
"We had a leaky roof. It was leaking in many places. We had problems with the walls, paint peeling from the walls, the plaster falling on people," Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre explained. "The clear story windows – two had already fallen in."
The roof and other restoration work totaled over $220,000 paid for partly by a church loan, the Diocese and generous donations.
Late in life, the mother of the Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J., began attending mass at a Southern California church, the congregation of which soon became Spanish-speaking. Services were conducted entirely in that language, which she could not understand, yet she happily continued attending. When her son asked why, she replied: ``It is just like the Latin Mass, I don't understand a word of it. It is even better, I don't understand the homily.''
We have all listened to a speaker and wished: If only he were incomprehensible. As G.K. Chesterton said of Times Square, it would be beautiful if you could not read.
Mrs. Reese's son, now 64 and a senior fellow at a religious-issues think tank at Georgetown University, was raised experiencing the liturgy in Latin. He entered seminary in 1962, the year the Second Vatican Council convened. By the time Reese was ordained, the council had proscribed the Latin Mass.
Having seen much change -- and much resistance to it -- Reese is relaxed about 2009's most intriguing development in Christianity, the Vatican's enticement of disaffected Anglicans. Rome is saying to individuals, and perhaps to entire parishes and even dioceses: ``Come on over.'' It is trolling with rules, recently written, that will enable Anglicans-become-Catholics to retain some of their liturgy. The church will accept some already-married priests, and perhaps married seminarians, but not bishops.
When the call came, the Rev. Tom Winslow did not hesitate. Terrorists had destroyed the World Trade Center, and rescue workers needed the spiritual support of clergy.
So for one week in November of 2001, Winslow, an Episcopal priest and the chaplain for the Wisconsin FBI, ministered to rescue workers in an area of ground zero dubbed "the pit." Winslow was one of many clergy attached to federal agencies who rotated through ground zero. He remembers praying over a rib cage, the only body part left of one victim.
Now, eight years later, Winslow thinks the toxic air he breathed that week led to a life-threatening health crisis. He received a lung transplant at UW Hospital three weeks ago and was back Monday for his first clinic visit. "There are a lot of people out there who are still victims of 9/11, and they are going to be showing up in a wave at hospitals in the years ahead," said Winslow, 65, of Pewaukee.
At ground zero, he wore an air-purifying canister respirator at all times around his neck, he said. However, he breathed through it only when he traveled below ground, the common practice of those at the site, he said.
A 2009 report by the World Trade Center Medical Working Group says thousands of exposed people continue to suffer from chronic mental and physical health conditions but that a relationship between exposure and more serious illnesses such as cancer is unknown.
Winslow said he had no lung problems until after his work at ground zero, then suffered an asthma-like attack within a week or so. Serious sinus and bronchial problems developed, leading to pneumonia, gastric reflux disease, and, ultimately, lung failure.
The Christmas spirit was alive and well at the Trinity Episcopal Church soup kitchen Friday morning, where around 60 of the city’s homeless and hungry received a hot meal from volunteers.
Attendees ate, drank coffee, and chatted as they enjoyed a traditional holiday meal of ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and green bean salad, all to be followed by slices of homemade pie.
The team of volunteers who took time out of their Christmas day said the work was not just about helping those who are down on their luck, but also giving those who work in the kitchen regularly a chance to enjoy their holiday.
“It’s a way to give back to the community and give our Christian friends and workers time to spend with their families,” said Alan Matisoff.
The crew at the kitchen included numerous Torrington Rotary Club members and current Superintendent of Schools Ed Arum, who took up dishwashing duties.
When reviewing the major religion news stories in the Fort Worth area over the past year, one subject kept rising to the top — the Episcopalian split.
Two groups of Episcopalians — the breakaway group led by Bishop Jack Iker and the other that voted to stay in the national Episcopal Church — went separate ways, each claiming the title Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.
Members of Iker’s group voted to leave the Episcopal Church, saying it has strayed from biblical principles in many ways, including ordaining an openly gay man, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
Area Episcopalians who stayed in the national church reorganized the Fort Worth diocese, naming a provisional bishop, now the Right Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, to replace Iker. Also, they, along with the national church, filed suit in Tarrant County’s 141st District Court, seeking that Iker’s group give up all church property in the 24-county diocese.
Iker’s group voluntarily gave up church properties where a majority of members had voted to stay in the Episcopal Church. But it says that all other properties belong to the diocese, not the national denomination. Iker also holds that he is still bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and that the diocese has just shifted its allegiance to the Argentina-based Southern Cone province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Courts will ultimately decide the issue.
This morning’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews begins with the boldest and most unambiguous statement possible of what’s new and different about Christmas. God has always been communicating with humanity, in any number of ways; but what we need from God is more than just information. The climax of the story is the sending of a Son: when all has been said and done on the level of information what still needs to be made clear to us is that the point of it all is relationship. God speaks at last through a Son, so that we can grasp the fact that really knowing God, really responding to his Word of promise and life, is a matter of relationship. It’s becoming God’s child. And the consequence is that we ourselves learn to speak and act in such a way that others want to share that relationship.
The Son, says the writer to the Hebrews, is the heir of all creation; the Son is the lifegiving principle of all reality; the Son radiates and reflects the unimaginable beauty and light of the source from which he comes. When the Son is born among us, what happens is that this unlimited, unending torrent of light and glory, of intelligence and order and loving contemplation is poured into the container of a human mind and body. Through what he then does in that human mind and body, the possibilities for human life are changed for ever, and we are invited into the same place in heaven that the Son occupies for ever – the place that St John’s gospel defines as ‘ nearest to the Father’s heart’. And the letter-writer triumphantly claims that our human destiny is thus to be even closer to God than the angels are. Christian poets and thinkers have often imagined the angels looking at us with amazement – such very unpromising material, such limited capacities, such a genius for self-deception and pettiness, yet promised such a future.
Relationship is the new thing at Christmas, the new possibility of being related to God as Jesus was and is. But here’s the catch and the challenge. To come into this glorious future is to learn how to be dependent on God. And that word tends to have a chilly feel for us, especially us who are proudly independent moderns. We speak of ‘dependent’ characters with pity and concern; we think of ‘dependency’ on drugs and alcohol; we worry about the ‘dependent’ mind set that can be created by handouts to the destitute. In other words, we think of dependency as something passive and less than free.
A top Anglican cleric spoke out Thursday against a proposed Ugandan law that would impose the death penalty on some homosexuals.
Archbishop of York John Sentamu - who along with the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is one of the global fellowship's most senior priests - made what he said was the Anglicans' first public condemnation of the anti-gay law now being considered by the East African nation's parliament.
"I'm opposed to the death sentence. I'm also not happy when you describe people in the kind of language you find in this ... bill," he told BBC radio.
The issue of homosexuality has triggered a debate that has divided the global 77 million-strong Anglican fellowship. Sentamu chose his words carefully, restating the content of a 2004 Anglican statement that condemned "the victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex."
Nearly 40 percent of Ugandans are Anglicans, and the country has become a rallying point for Anglican conservatives angry over blessings given to gay marriages and the ordination of gay bishops, with some U.S. Episcopal denominations switching their allegiance to the Church of Uganda following the 2003 ordination of openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson.
In the days immediately following Christmas, an interfaith group of local laity and clergy will join together Dec. 26-28 to honor the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28). This is the day set aside in the Christian church to remember the harrowing escape of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus to Egypt and the slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:13-18). It is a biblical story that often goes untold and is typically excluded from the Christmas narrative.
In addition to a shared worship service, participants will fast and vigil as they seek to make an explicit connection between the experience of the Holy Family and the plight of immigrants in our community. Rabbi Rob Cabelli, of Temple Beth Israel, will reflect on the core Jewish teachings with regard to the “aliens and strangers” in our midst, a topic to which the Hebrew scriptures frequently refer. He states that the “bond of fellowship” we experience in our faith communities is nurtured in the “easy place first, the community defined by shared religious, ethnic, or cultural practices,” so that it then can be extended to “all those outside that smaller circle.” Cabelli adds, “If the second part is not fulfilled, in my opinion the first part is in vain.”
The first gathering will be from 7-8:30 p.m. Dec. 26 at St. Matthias Episcopal Church, 1 Dundee St. Rabbi Robert Cabelli will discuss “Understanding Immigration Through the Lens of Exodus, the Jewish Faith, and the Hebrew Scriptures.”
The list of finalists to become Wyoming's new Episcopal bishop has expanded to six, as two new candidates have emerged. Casper resident Margaret Babcock and Sandra Casey-Martus of Corpus Christi, Texas, are the latest to apply for the office. Wyoming's current Episcopal bishop, Bruce Caldwell, is retiring next summer after 12 years in office.
Both of the new candidates have connections to Wyoming. Babcock works for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming as the canon for congregational and ministry development. Casey-Martus, who is currently rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Corpus Christi, served as executive director of the Alta Retreat Center for 10 years and was vicar of St. Francis in the Tetons from 1996 to 2005.
The four other finalists are the Rev. Rebecca "Becky" Brown of Foxborough, Mass.; the Very Rev. Canon F. Michael Perko of Albuquerque, N.M.; the Rev. Canon Dr. Clark Michael Sherman of Bozeman, Mont.; and the Rev. John Sheridan Smylie, rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Casper.
Clergy and delegates from Wyoming congregations will elect a new bishop in March.
Advent now shifts into the manifestation of God’s good will in the Nativity feast. So too the church takes its self-scrutiny and penitence, and turns in hope to the gift of God’s own and new life among us.
The final text of the Anglican Covenant has now been sent out for adoption by the churches of the Communion. The slow process by which this text and its official dissemination for action has occurred has frustrated some, yet its persistent progress forward to this point at last puts the lie to the naysayers and early eulogists of the Covenant’s purpose. Joined to the restarting of the Anglican-Roman Catholic international dialogue, to be focused on substantive matters of ecclesiology and moral decision-making, what seemed merely slow now appears to be the visible sign of a tectonic shift in global Anglicanism and Christianity itself. It is one in which the Episcopal Church in the United States has placed itself on the far side of a widening channel separating the ballast of Christian witness, Catholic and Pentecostal, from marginal spin-offs of liberal Protestantism in decline.
And so some stock-taking is in order. I would like to speak as honestly as I can about the Episcopal Church, of which I am and remain a member, as we enter this new decade. The purpose of doing so is not to provoke response or to encourage reactive apathy. Honesty is necessary, simply and straightforwardly, for anyone who seeks God’s will, and surely that is all of us, and especially those of us who are Anglicans in America and in the Episcopal Church.
To be sure, this is not a favorable time or place for honesty. I am about to speak what, from my point of view, are hard things to receive. But I do not wish at all to play into the greed for TEC’s failure that is fueled by the anger of some former Episcopalians and former Anglicans. I do not count myself in this group. Nor do I want to confirm the consistent dismissal of traditional Episcopalians by others as defeatist and in love with misery. The moment of the Covenant’s finalization and ARCIC’s reinvigoration are far from miserable; they betoken new promise! More importantly, I do not want to discourage the many faithful Episcopalians who look for hope in the face of too many voices of hopelessness about their church and about most Christian churches. There are many people, especially among the young, who are seeking to serve because they are in fact called; and I believe they are called by God to serve in this strange Anglican place, but they are rightly questioning. And there are many who are wearied of the struggle in this church over the past few years, and simply afraid of their own anger; they neither wish to be challenged anew nor reminded again, and in so doing have failed to speak to the genuine questions that are now in our midst.
Interdependence and mutual accountability have always been the key features of the earlier drafts (Nassau, St Andrew’s, and Ridley) of the Covenant. It is encouraging that these are still at the heart of the final text.
The working party charged with producing this text, especially focusing on section 4, is to be commended. The final text is profoundly Anglican, consonant with the trajectory of the Windsor Process and, it seems to me, is likely to lead to the majority of provinces of the Anglican Communion adopting the Covenant. In the light of recent developments, it may well be that not all provinces will enter the Covenant. Tragically, that may be appropriate at this time.
The working party has explained their guiding principles as “minimal revision” but with some “clearer definition” and “change of tone in language.” I believe they have achieved their aim admirably.
Four key questions are now answered: Can dioceses commit themselves to the Covenant? The Covenant is designed primarily for “Provinces of the Anglican Communion” — these are the “Churches of the Anglican Communion” referred to in the text. However, dioceses are included in the phrase “any ecclesial body” and some dioceses, for instance Communion Partner dioceses in the Episcopal Church, which may wish to commit themselves to the Covenant if their provinces do not, will be allowed to do so. The working party quote again the principles of “The Lambeth Commentary” (September 2008):
If, however, the canons and constitutions of a Province permit, there is no reason why a diocesan synod should not commit itself to the covenant, thus strengthening its commitment to the interdependent life of the Communion.
Illegal immigrants used a 'loophole' to bypass a government crackdown on sham marriages and pay cash to wed European women with the right to live in Britain, a court heard today. They fooled Anglican Church officials into believing they were genuine couples in love and agreeing to allow the 'bogus' marriages to take place.
But a registrar suspicious about the number of Nigerian men marrying women from Slovakia and the Czech Republic tipped off police who uncovered a major conspiracy.
After making covert recordings they made a series of arrests on the day of a double wedding in July, taking a groom into custody at a motorway service station on the way to the ceremony and arresting two 'brides' dressed in wedding gowns outside a church.
Today Judge Peter Collier, QC, told the seven defendants who admitted offences at Leeds Crown Court they had 'carried out an assault on controls of immigration in this country.'
The scam involved African immigrants paying up to £15,000 each to 'fixers' to arrange for them to marry a woman from Europe so they could stay in the country legally.
Christians in the U.K. are continuing to warn that the government’s planned “equality” legislation will drive Christian believers out of public life. The Christian Institute, Britain’s leading evangelical Christian lobby group, has issued a report titled “Marginalising Christians,” detailing the many recent cases of Christians who have been disciplined or lost work because of conflicts between faith and the government-sponsored and increasingly aggressive secularism.
The government’s recent equality and diversity laws, the group says, leave Christians “the first to be punished and the last to be protected.”
The report cites a poll taken in January 2009 that found that 84 per cent of Britons felt that freedoms of religion and of speech are at risk in the UK.
The report said that this “growing sense of intolerance felt by Christians is made all the worse when they face hostility in the name of ‘equality and diversity’.”
“Christians wonder why they are not being treated equally and why diversity does not include them. They feel that a hierarchy of rights has sprung up which leaves them bottom of the pile. This has led to a growing feeling that ‘equality and diversity’ is code for marginalising Christian beliefs.”
George Pitcher wrote Monday in The Daily Telegraph that the Labour government’s Equality bill, currently working through the House of Lords, was being used by “parliamentary secularists to drive religion from the public sphere.”
“Any issue will serve as a means for secularists to marginalise believers. You could call that discriminatory, but to do it under the banner of equality is peculiarly hypocritical,” wrote Pitcher, a liberal Anglican minister and religion editor for the Telegraph.
There is, he said, “a delicious irony in equality being thrust upon the household of faith.”
Lexington Theological Seminary is hardly the only seminary to experience upheaval due to the economic freefall and changes in the numbers and types of students they are attracting:
Salt Lake Theological Seminary, an independent evangelical school in Utah, has closed.
Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, N.Y., an American Baptist school, is in merger talks with Andover Newton Theological Seminary in suburban Boston, affiliated with the United Church of Christ.
Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., and Union Theological Seminary in New York City sold or leased out campus buildings to stabilize finances.
McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), plans a announced plans to move to less expensive buildings.
Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, an Episcopal school in Evanston, Ill., has stopped admitting master of divinity students but is offering a doctoral program in conjunction with another school.
Claremont School of Theology, a Methodist school in California, decided in 2008 to expand into training non-Christian clergy.
In Kentucky, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville laid off 35 non-faculty employees, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary laid off nine and Asbury Theological Seminary laid off 16 workers. St. Meinrad School of Theology in Southern Indiana made some budget cuts but no staff cuts.
The final draft of a document aimed at mediating disputes between liberals and conservatives in the global Anglican Communion was sent on Friday (Dec. 18) to its 38 provinces for approval.
The Anglican Communion, which is the world's third-largest body of Christians with 77 million members, has been bitterly divided over homosexuality since the election of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003. The Episcopal Church is the U.S. province of the communion.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of Anglicanism, said the document, called a "covenant," is "not going to be a penal code" but rather "a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts."
"We've discovered that our relations with each other as local churches have been strained," Williams said in a statement, "and we need to have a sense that we are responsible to one another."
Each Anglican province is autonomous, limiting the power of Williams and other Anglican leaders to police the communion. In fact, earlier this month, Episcopalians in Los Angeles openly defied Williams by electing an open lesbian, the Rev. Mary Glasspool, as an assistant bishop.
Since then, Williams and an international panel of Anglican leaders have asked the Episcopal Church to "exercise restraint" by not confirming Glasspool's election. In addition, the Anglican Communion's Standing Committee on Friday asked Episcopalians to exercise "gracious restraint" with respect to "actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion."
Archbishop of Canterbury Roman Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, will speak on Jan. 30 at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers.
He will speak about "Theology and the Contemplative Calling."
The seminary will also give Williams on honorary doctorate to honor his contributions to the study of Orthodox theology and spirituality.
The Anglican Communion includes more than 80 million Christians in over 160 countries.
In recent years, the Communion has been increasingly divided over questions of sexuality, in particular whether gays and lesbians can serve as clergy and whether Anglican ministers should unite same-sex couples in union ceremonies or marriages.
The Episcopal Church, the official American arm of the Anglican Communion, is far more liberal on these matters than the Communion as a whole. Williams recently chastised the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles for electing a lesbian as a bishop despite knowing that the move may harm internal Communion relations.
The final text of the Anglican Communion Covenant pleased the Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, who has served on the document’s design group since its inception in 2006. Dr. Radner, an Episcopal priest, is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto, Ontario.
“My sense about it is that they didn’t really change anything substantial,” he told The Living Church, referring to the working group charged with revising the document from its previous iteration as the Ridley Cambridge draft.
“They salvaged what could have been a bad mess from May ,” when the Anglican Consultative Council met and, after a chaotic legislative session, ultimately asked for revisions to the document’s fourth section, which proposes how provinces will be accountable to the Anglican Communion as a whole.
Because changes to the fourth section did not reflect what Episcopal Church leaders were seeking, Dr. Radner said, the document helps change that province’s standing. He described it as being part of a pattern, along with the ecumenical dialogues of the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission and the recent meeting of the Archbishop of Canterbury with Pope Benedict XVI.
“You take this, with the restarting of the ARCIC dialogue and what Rowan was engaged in at Rome, and there is a shift going on, and that shift is leaving the Episcopal Church behind,” he said. “There’s nothing the Episcopal Church can do about it at this point.”
While acknowledging the archbishop’s explanation that the Covenant is “not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply,” Dr. Radner said of Episcopal Church leaders: “They’re not going to be able to claim any moral high ground. They’ve been sidelined.”
Those leaders are not being shown the exit, he said, but “they’re on a path that’s going around the side of the building.”
He highlighted Section 4.1.6, which says simply, “This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant through the procedures of its own Constitution and Canons.”
Conservative provinces in the Global South “ought to be able to go ahead with it,” he said about adoption of the Covenant, “whatever problems there are with this or that detail.”
Today in Nazareth, boyhood home of Jesus, archaeologists showed off the remains of a home that may have belonged to one of his neighbors, the first such dwelling from that era.
The simple house was one of about 50 that belonged to the impoverished Jewish families who lived in the hamlet. The remains of a wall, a hideout from Roman soldiers, a courtyard and a roof-top water system were found after builders dug up the courtyard of a former convent to make room for a new Christian center, just yards from the Basilica of the Annunciation.
"This may well have been a place that Jesus and his contemporaries were familiar with," archaeologist Yardena Alexandre, excavations director at the Israel Antiquities Authority, told the Associated Press. Jesus may have played around the house with his cousins and friends, he added. "It's a logical suggestion."
Haaretz has more photos.
Present-day Nazareth has about 65,000 residents, mostly Muslims, and is the largest Arab city in northern Israel.
The final text of the Anglican Communion covenant was released for formal consideration for adoption by the Communion’s provinces on Dec. 18. The Rev. Canon Dr. Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, made the announcement (in a letter [PDF] addressed to “Primates, Moderators and Provincial Secretaries of the Anglican Communion”), saying that the presentation of the covenant to the provinces “represents an invitation to deepening of relationships among those provinces.”
“We have a long history of friendship, affinities and collaboration between provinces, dioceses, parishes and people across the globe, and we celebrate these manifold expressions of our oneness in Christ.” Canon Kearon wrote. “The covenant represents a further step in these relationships, building on and giving expression to the bonds of affection which shape our common life.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams offered a preview to the official release of the text via a video message on Dec. 18, saying he hopes that the covenant “will be adopted by as many provinces as possible.”
“In recent years in the Anglican family, we’ve discovered that our relations with each other as local churches have often been strained, that we haven’t learned to trust one another as perhaps we should, that we really need to build relationships, and we need to have a sense that we are responsible to one another and responsible for each other,” Archbishop Williams wrote. “In other words, what we need is something that will help us know where we stand together, and help us also intensify our fellowship and our trust. The covenant text sets out the basis on which the Anglican family works and prays and lives and hopes.”
The archbishop emphasized that “it’s quite important in this process to remember what the covenant is and what it isn’t,” noting in particular that “it’s not going to be a constitution, and it’s certainly not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don’t comply.”
Citing the fourth and final section of the covenant text, Archbishop Williams called it “the most controversial, because that’s where we spell out what happens if relationships fail or break down.”
From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Department (York England Division). Joe Fletcher strikes again. From The London Gaurdian-
In issuing the 10 commandments to Moses atop Mount Sinai, God was pretty unequivocal: "Thou shalt not steal."
However, there's good news for anyone whose passion for pilfering has hitherto been tempered by the eighth commandment: according to one Church of England vicar, we can steal after all.
Father Tim Jones, the parish priest of St Lawrence and St Hilda in York, told his congregation on Sunday that certain vulnerable people face difficult situations.
"My advice, as a Christian priest, is to shoplift," he said. "I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither."
The reverend did set some parameters for anyone planning a shoplifting binge.
"I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices," he said, adding: "I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need."
Jones, whose description on his church's website says he has served as chaplain at a prison, said his words should not be "misrepresented as a simplistic call for people to shoplift". He said some people have little option but to turn to crime.
Looking back on 2009, it's difficult to imagine a busier year for 82-year-old Pope Benedict XVI.
The Year of St. Paul. The Year for Priests. A major social encyclical. A Holy Land pilgrimage. A first meeting with President Obama. Ten new saints. An African trip and an African synod. A Facebook debut. A controversial concession to Catholic traditionalists. An unexpected overture to disaffected Anglicans.
And those are just the highlights, of course. Being pope is a day-in, day-out ministry, and over the course of the past year Pope Benedict met with more than 200 dignitaries and groups, held talks with more than 300 bishops and celebrated more than 50 major liturgies.
The year brought moments of deep personal satisfaction, as when the German pontiff prayed in silence before Christ's empty tomb in Jerusalem, or when he arrived on his first African visit to a tumultuous welcome by hundreds of thousands of Cameroon residents.
But the pope's disappointment was also evident in 2009, in part because he felt misunderstood by some of his own faithful and the mass media over difficult decisions or statements.
In January, the pope announced that he was lifting the excommunications of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X to open the way toward reconciliation talks with the traditionalist group -- a move that had been opposed by some bishops in several countries.
For the 40 or so gathered in prayer Monday night, the bitter, subfreezing air whipping around the Capitol Square reinforced the plight of Madison’s homeless men and women. The group gathered just after dark on the longest night of the year at the shelter at Grace Episcopal Church, then processed to a bench on the east side of the Square where Dwayne Benjamin Warren, a 38-year-old homeless man, was found dead in June.
“People like Dwayne should be remembered,” said Todd Hunter, a Downtown attorney who became friends with Warren not long before he died.
The coroner’s office said Warren died of natural causes. Those who knew him said he suffered from mental illness and needed medical help, which he refused.
Though Warren isn’t the only homeless person to have died on the streets of Madison, his death drew attention because of its public location. It also raised questions about whether the government’s social services safety net could have done more to save him.
John Duncan said he attended the vigil because he wanted to raise awareness about the needs of those in shelters. Duncan became homeless after he was released from prison Nov. 3 and the halfway houses were full. He said the facilities at Grace Episcopal, where he stayed for a month before his family helped him secure housing, need renovation and many of the men there need drug and alcohol counseling.
“I wasn’t expecting to be in a homeless shelter,” Duncan said. “But everything happens for a reason.”
Vigils were held in cities around the country as part of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, an event sponsored since 1990 by National Coalition for the Homeless. Last year there were vigils held in 100 cities calling for a commitment to end homelessness.
This Christmas, a new priest will be leading the mass at Christ Church in Hamilton. The Rev. Patrick Gray started his new job as Priest-in-Charge at Christ Church in Hamilton on Oct. 1. The former rector of Christ Church, Jurgen Liias, was called to the rector position at the Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Danvers. Gray comes to Christ Church from seven years as associate rector of the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill in Boston. Gray conveys the qualities of youth and energy, drawing people in with his smile and comfortable friendliness. His office, still in a state of transition, has the rare addition of a dove named Lovey-Dovey.
“She was in training to be a carrier pigeon,” explained Gray, “but she got lost and we adopted her.”
Despite growing up in Delaware, Gray is no stranger to area, as he received his BA from Gordon College in Wenham and his Master’s from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton. He received his Master of Sacred Theology (STM) degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He and his wife, Naomi, were also resident docents at the Stephen Phillips house in Salem. Naomi Gray continues to work in historical museum settings as a member of the staff at the Historic New England headquarters in Boston. The Grays have been married for 17 years and have two children, Ezra, age 5, and Ella, age 2.
Gray said he was attracted to Christ Church because he knew the area and “knew the people” and respected their commitment to evangelicalism within the Episcopal Church.
The issues of gay marriage and gay clergy are leading some Episcopal churches in Beaufort County and the state to disassociate or distance themselves from the Episcopal Church.
On Dec. 1, St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Hilton Head Island voted to remove all reference to "the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, the Diocese of South Carolina, and any Canons associated therewith" from its charter, according to The (Charleston) Post and Courier.
The Rev. Greg Kronz, rector of St. Luke's, declined to comment on the decision.
Earlier this year, St. Luke's, The Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort and the Church of the Cross in Bluffton also condemned the national church's decisions on gays in the church. Attempts to reach the rectors of The Parish Church and Church of the Cross were unsuccessful.
In a document entitled, "Where We Stand," clergy and vestries from the three churches said the national church had "overturned the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and refused to abstain from the ordination of persons whose manner of life violates Christian tenets in practice for almost 2,000 years. These are actions we cannot condone."
Not all of the Episcopal churches in Beaufort County have condemned the national church.
The Rev. Richard Lindsey, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church on Hilton Head, said his church "remains a steadfast part of the Episcopal Church."
The actions to condemn the Episcopal Church come just weeks after the Diocese of South Carolina held a special convention to vote on five resolutions, one of which calls on the bishop and standing committee "to begin withdrawing from all bodies of the Episcopal Church that have assented to actions contrary to Holy Scripture, the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ."
The Vestry of Trinity Episcopal Church in Myrtle Beach also voted earlier this month to change its bylaws, removing reference to the Episcopal Church.
The Diocese of South Carolina oversees more than 70 parishes throughout the coastal half of the state. The Very Rev. Mark Lawrence, bishop of the diocese, wrote in an e-mail that he will remain open to counsel and conversation.
As the tills ring merrily on high this weekend, softly, in the distance, if you listen carefully, you may just catch the distant note of a Christmas carol. Today, tomorrow and right up to next Friday, the English will be paying their annual low-key obeisance to Christianity.
Three million of us will crowd into Church of England services for midnight mass or Christmas morning eucharist and at least as many again for the services of other denominations - three times the normal Sunday attendance. It may be only a fraction of the population and they may not darken a church's doors again for another year, but deep down some distant, ancient, folk memory stirs; even if, as some clergy say, they're asked not to make the services too Christian these days.
"Christmas is our huge opportunity," says Paul Timms, the dean's verger at Southwark Cathedral. "It's a time when people are positive. This is a sacred space and a beautiful building. If only they could bottle the atmosphere in here."
Indeed it is a beautiful building, despite being hemmed in between the commuter rail lines heading for London's Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations. Shakespeare knew this church and people have worshipped on this site since Saxon times.
DIOCESE of Western Izon, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion has expressed worry over the continued devaluation of the naira, attributing it to the nation's unproductive attitude and the increasing rate of ritual killings across the country.
The Diocese also flayed the country's credibility rating on corruption by Transparency International, urging the federal government to take the anti-corruption crusade more seriously.
This was part of a 14-point communiqué at the end of its synod, held at the Cathedral Church of St. Mathew in Patani, Delta State, signed by Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Edafe Emamezi and the Synod Secretary, the Ven, Churchill Enoya and made available to Daily Champion in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital.
The communiqué said: " Nigeria 's credibility rating in the recent publication of Transparency International (TI)has plummeted from 121 position to 130 and the synod felt that this would decrease only if our leaders and people shunned corrupt practices and tendencies."
The Diocesan Communicator, Emma Okereke in a statement, therefore called for the diversification of the economy, pointing out that the nation's continued reliance on oil as the mainstay of its economy had become a hindrance to sustainable development.
Commending the current sanitisation of the banking industry, the synod frowns at victimization and any element of religious bias in the process, just as it lauded the amnesty programme of the apex government.
During a recent sermon at Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, the Rev. Stephen Zimmerman invoked not the Bible or the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
Zimmerman quoted the Rolling Stones.
“St. Paul the persecutor was a cruel and sinful man / ’till Jesus hit him with a blinding light, and then his life began,” said Zimmerman, who on Nov. 1 became priest-in-charge of Grace and St. Stephen’s downtown.
Zimmerman has also quoted lyrics by Bruce Springsteen and U2 during sermons, and his cell phone announces incoming calls by playing the Stones’ “Start Me Up.”
But make no mistake. Zimmerman, 60, is more than just a fan of classic rock. He’s thought deeply about the problems within the Episcopal Church, racked in recent years with internal division over the role of gays and women in the church.
For Zimmerman, the disagreements can be positive if people still realize they are united in Christ. “The gift of the Episcopal Church to the rest of Christendom can be that communion is larger than confession,” he said, meaning Christian community outweighs differences in theological interpretation.
All four sections of the proposed Anglican covenant were sent to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration on Dec. 18 after the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion approved a revised version of the document's text. The Standing Committee had been presented with a revamped section 4 of the covenant during its Dec. 15-18 meeting in London, after a small working group had spent six months consulting with the provinces about its revision.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in a Dec. 18 video message, said that the covenant is not going to solve all of the communion's problems.
"It's not going to be a constitution, and it's certainly not going to be a penal code for punishing people who don't comply," he said. "But what it does represent is this: in recent years in the Anglican family, we've discovered that our relations with each other as local churches have often been strained, that we haven't learned to trust one another as perhaps we should, that we really need to build relationships, and we need to have a sense that we are responsible to one another and responsible for each other. In other words, what we need is something that will help us know where we stand together, and help us also intensify our fellowship and our trust."
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said in a Dec. 18 letter to the communion’s primates and moderators that the member churches should consider the text and decide "on acceptance or adoption." Kearon said those member churches would be expected to report to the next Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in 2012 "on the progress made in the processes of response to, and adoption of, the covenant." The ACC is the communion's main policy-making body.
The Episcopal Church's Executive Council has said that only General Convention, which next meets in 2012, can formally endorse the Anglican covenant. At its January 2009 meeting, the council said it predicts that such approval could not come until at least 2015 should endorsement require changes to the Episcopal Church's constitution.
We are about to enter the second decade of the third millennium. In ten years’ time, shall we find the world-wide Anglican Communion still one, or broken up into a group of splinter churches?
A standing committee of the Anglican Communion held in London from 15 to 18 December this year passed a resolution, approved for public distribution.
It read as follows:
in the light of i) the recent Episcopal nomination in the Diocese of Los Angeles of a partnered lesbian candidate ii) the decisions in a number of US and Canadian dioceses to proceed with the formal ceremonies of same-sex blessings iii) continuing cross-jurisdictional activity within the Communion,
the standing committee strongly affirms Resolution 14.09 of Anglican Consultative Council 14 supporting three moratoria proposed by the Windsor Report of 2004 requesting “gracious restraint” in respect of actions that endanger the unity of the Anglican Communion by going against the declared view of the Instruments of Communion. In short, think twice before confirming the nomination of Mary Glasspool as suffragan-elect of Los Angeles, since this raises serious questions for the future of the Communion as a whole.
St. Andrew's Church in Mount Pleasant is the most recent church to take steps to leave The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of South Carolina.
The congregation has recommended that the parish "affiliate with the Anglican Church in North America and separate from The Episcopal Church," according to a posting online by its rector, the Rev. Steve Wood.
The Anglican Church in North America upholds an "orthodox" theology and is seeking recognition as a new non-geographical Anglican province recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Established in June 2008, it has nearly 750 parish affiliates.
The congregation's decision came after a formal 40-day discernment process. More than 900 response forms were submitted; 838 recommended realignment while 58 recommended remaining part of The Episcopal Church. A few responses were left blank.
The vestry of St. Andrew's will convene after the holidays to consider an official course of action, parish officials said.
The discernment process is a result of the dilemma caused by The Episcopal Church, Wood said in an e-mail.
"The call of every Christian is to stand with and for Christ. The amazing story of a God who loves us and pursues us has been lost by our national leadership which seems to no longer believe the very story entrusted to their care," he wrote. "The Gospel story is that God in Christ reaches out to broken and lost humanity offering real hope for a new life. St. Andrew's seeks to faithfully and humbly give witness to this glorious hope."
The Episcopal Church has been coping with theological discord for years, but disagreements among Episcopalians heated up after the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire became the first openly gay bishop of the church in 2003.
The Diocese of Los Angeles elected the second openly gay Episcopal bishop Dec. 5, the Rev. Mary Glasspool of Baltimore, who will serve as assistant bishop if a majority of dioceses approve the vote.
Two other South Carolina churches recently took steps moving away from The Episcopal Church.
On Dec. 1, the vestry and membership of St. Luke's Church on Hilton Head Island voted to remove all reference to "the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, the Diocese of South Carolina, and any Canons associated therewith" from its charter. The change has its precedent in the diocese: All Saints Church at Pawleys Island voted to delete reference to The Episcopal Church from its charter in 2004, then affiliated with the Anglican Mission in the Americas, an extension of the Province of Rwanda.
Another South Carolina parish has taken steps away from the national Episcopal church over church positions on same-sex unions and ordination of gays.
The Post and Courier of Charleston reported Saturday that the congregation of St. Andrew's Church in Mount Pleasant voted to align itself with the conservative Anglican Church in North America.
The Diocese of South Carolina is comprised of 75 parishes in the southern and eastern part of the state. In October, the diocese voted to distance itself but not completely split from the national Episcopal Church over concerns
The 2.3 million-member Episcopal church is the U.S. branch of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
Pope Benedict XVI moved two of his predecessors a step closer to sainthood on Saturday, confirming the “heroic virtues” of John Paul II and, in a surprise move, of Pius XII, the pope during World War II.
After John Paul’s death in April 2005, Benedict bypassed a traditional waiting period to put the much beloved pope on a fast-track to sainthood. At John Paul’s funeral, crowds at Saint Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito,” or “sainthood now.”
Pius XII, however, has been a point of contention between the Vatican and some Jewish groups, who say he did not do enough to stop the Holocaust. They have called on the Vatican to open the sealed archives from Pius’s papacy, from 1939 to 1958, for examination by scholars.
On Saturday, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants called the decision on Pius “profoundly insensitive and thoughtless” and said it would cause “an inevitable blow” to interfaith relations.