For Christians, Easter celebrates the symbolic meeting of heaven and Earth. And this year, as Good Friday coincides with Earth Day, the connection is all the more divine.
The Open Door church in Highland Park is celebrating the holiday crossover with "The Earth Groans," a Stations of the Cross exhibit that features pieces made from recycled or re-purposed materials.
Held at the Union Project in Highland Park, the display calls the faithful to reflect not only on their relationships with Christ but also on sustainability efforts to ensure a healthier planet.
"As Christians, it's important for us to be good stewards of the Earth ... that God gave us to be caretakers over," said B.J. Woodworth, pastor of the Open Door. "It's just a natural outgrowth of our faith."
"The Earth Groans" includes 14 pieces that chronicle Jesus' final hours, from his condemnation under Pontius Pilate through his death on the cross.
Unlike traditional Stations of the Cross -- where like images of Jesus' journey are displayed chronologically on a wall -- the exhibit offers 14 unique works that extend beyond the wall for new interpretations of the Passion.
Ghana and 16 other African countries are benefiting from a $55 million project to tackle malaria in developing countries.
Under the project, free insecticide treated bed nets, (ITNs) would be distributed under five-years.
A non-governmental organization, Episcopal Relief and Development, under its NETSFORLIFE campaign, is running the project with sponsorship from corporate bodies such as Standard Chartered Bank, Coca Cola Africa Foundation and ExxonMobil.
Mr Samuel Asiedu, a representative of Episcopal Relief and Development, said these at an ITN’s free distribution ceremony at Dawa in the Dangme West district of the Greater Accra region. As part of this year’s observance of the World Malaria Day, the African Media and Malaria Research Network, (AMMREN) organized the event in partnership with the Episcopal Relief and Development, the Dangme West Health Centre and Dodowa Health Research Centre, to help communities acquire the ITNs and properly install them to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.
From a retired Episcopal Priest in Colorado. (Nice story)
The sesquicentennial observance of the American Civil War has begun. Because I have a family connection to it, I rise to a point of personal privilege.
More than 600,000 souls perished in this war — more than any other American war. Property damage, unimaginable cruelty and countless acts of destruction are unequaled in American military history.
In the midst of these horrors, an example of mercy, grace and redemption shines forth. In May 1864, General Sherman started his “march to the sea.” From the Tennessee-Georgia border, he methodically swept everything in his path aside, burning entire towns to the ground. The burning of Atlanta, graphically illustrated in “Gone With The Wind,” characterized Sherman’s response to resistance.
Property confiscation, execution of the locals and conflagrations were the norm. Sherman’s Federal troops sometimes pursued Southern troops, and sometimes were pursued by them. Some battlefields swapped hands daily.
This was the case in Sandersville, Ga., in November 1864. A small group of Confederate cavalry rode into Sandersville having just captured 13 Federal troops, among them a severely injured cavalry lieutenant.
Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is a dichotomy wrapped in a paradox covered in tattoos.
Creation, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost — practically the entire liturgical year — unfurl in technicolor ink from her shoulder to her wrist.
That's just her left arm. Mary Magdalene and Lazarus rising from the dead are on the long right arm of this 6-foot-1 Christian billboard.
The 42-year-old came to Jesus later in life but then pursued a vocation in Christ full throttle. In a state where Focus on the Family and other strands of evangelical Christianity have long grabbed most headlines, a progressive Lutheran is now stealing the marquee.
On the strength of her preaching, Bolz-Weber received the invitation to sermonize Sunday at Easter sunrise services for roughly 10,000 people at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
In the few years since ordination in late 2008, she has become famous within her denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and achieved international acclaim.
She has a wide audience for her sermons and blogs, touted by the likes of progressive Christianity torch-bearer Jim Wallis. Her blog is under the heading "Sarcastic Lutheran: The cranky spirituality of a postmodern Gal. Emerging church ala Luther."
The report of the Commission on the Christian Doctrine of Marriage unanimously recommends that the Church should find out if there is enough support – "a moral consensus" – for such a major change in its discipline. If so, Church law should be changed.
The report will be one of the most controversial produced for years. It now goes to the General Synod, the Church's parliament, where opinions are deeply divided on remarriage. Any revision of ecclesiastical law could take several years. Altogether the Church has been debating its attitude to marriage "casualties" for 100 years. The commission denies that the Church is being asked to bow to secular pressures, or to drag along, lamely and complacently, at the heels of the State.
If the General Synod, after consultation, decides to permit the remarriage, "it would be an acknowledgment of human weakness and a declaration of faith in God's forgiveness and re-creative power." It would strengthen marriage generally.
The report adds: "We believe the grace which God may bestow in a first marriage He may also bestow in a second marriage. Certainly, such a second marriage could not be a witness to the permanent nature of marriage in the same way as an unbroken first marriage can be, but it could become a permanent union, and it could bear eloquent witness to the true nature of marriage in other ways." Again, it asserts: "It is possible that those who say that to remarry in church would cause offence to the Christian conscience may find failure to do so causes greater offence."
A Church of England bishop says congregations will breathe a "sigh of relief" this week when hundreds of worshippers defect to the Roman Catholic church, potentially drawing a line under the schism over the ordination of women.
Up to 900 Anglicans, including 60 clergy, are preparing to be received into the Roman Catholic faith in special services during Holy Week.
The Right Rev Christopher Hill said congregations losing clergy or laity to the Personal Ordinariate, a Vatican initiative allowing Anglicans to convert while keeping elements of their spiritual heritage, would allow the church to move on after being "racked" by the issue of women priests.
Hill, who is the bishop of Guildford and chair of the Council of Christian Unity, said while there was sadness at congregations losing their clergy or co-worshippers – in some instances both – there was reason to be positive.
"Where a decision has been made then those who go will have a bigger agenda, as do those who stay. They can leave this issue alone. It has racked these congregations. It has absorbed a lot of energy. Where a church has had such an exodus, there will be a sigh of relief that a decision has been made."
In the Book of Exodus, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and appointed him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. According to the ancient text, the bush was on fire yet not consumed by the flames. If only the same could be said about the Immanuel Chapel at the Virginia Episcopal Seminary.
Back in October, a fire destroyed the entire wooden roof of the historic chapel, which was consecrated in 1881. Although the fire left a majority of the solid masonry walls and tower intact, leaders at the seminary want to demolish 70 percent of the remaining structure to create what they call a "Prayer Garden." According to an application for a demolition permit, the Prayer Garden would be a place for meditation and outdoor services.
"There’s a sense of regret in having to make this presentation," said land-use attorney Duncan Blair, who also serves as chancellor of the seminary. "But, at the same time, there’s a sense of celebration because of what is being proposed."
The prayer-garden concept would employ the same technique of adaptive reuse that was used at Old Sheldon Church in South Carolina, Church Ruins in Port Arthur, Texas, and St. Catherine’s Church in Nuremberg, Germany. A more local example of the outdoor chapel and garden ruin is the St. Thomas Parish Episcopal Church near Dupont Circle. Much of the opposition to the seminary’s plan is based on the extent of the demolition proposed, which would scrap the iconic tower of the chapel.
As Good Friday coincides this year with Earth Day, churches around the world are reflecting on environmental concerns as they commemorate Christ's Crucifixion, but some believers think that, theologically, the two don't belong together.
Proponents say that planting trees and meditating on ways humanity has wounded the earth can parallel devotions that mark Jesus' sacrifice, but opponents say that a political message, even a pagan one, is being pushed onto sacred territory.
"This year's Earth Day falls on Good Friday. This is a right and appropriate occasion to remember the cross, which was made out of trees, leads us from bondage to liberation, death to life," said the National Council of Churches in India, which groups 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches.
The NCCI suggested that congregations plant trees in church compounds and include Sunday School children. Congregations were reminded to thank God "for trees and forests, which breathe in our carbon wastage and produce life-giving oxygen for us to live."
Earth Day has been observed on 22 April since 1970 and is considered one of the seminal events in the modern environmental movement; Good Friday is on a different date each year since it moves according to the observance of Easter.
In the U.S., the Episcopal Church, based in New York, has compiled resources for incorporating earth-care themes into services and celebrations, according to Episcopal News Service.
For World Malaria Day 2011, NetsforLife® will join with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Mozambique to hang 100,000 malaria nets in homes in the Homoine and Panda Districts of Inhambane Province. Over the course of five days, 180 volunteers will be trained to help families learn how to use nets to prevent malaria, and an additional 400 volunteers will be mobilized for the distribution of nets.
"We are excited about partnering with agencies like UMCOR, a sister faith organization, to amplify the reach of the NetsforLife® malaria prevention initiative," said Meg L. DeRonghe, Acting Executive Director of NetsforLife®. "Our local and global partnerships are critical to the sustainability of the program and the positive changes it is making in so many communities." Through community engagement, education, and monitoring and evaluation, NetsforLife® works in 17 malaria-endemic African countries and collaborates with international agencies, national programs and local malaria stakeholders to combat malaria by instilling a 'net culture': a community-wide understanding of the protective value of nets and the right way to use and care for them.
In countries where NetsforLife® has been active for a number of years, there is now renewed focus on maintaining people's working knowledge of how malaria is transmitted and how it can be prevented. [Watch a video interview with Samuel Asiedu Agyei, Monitoring & Evaluation Manager for NetsforLife®, discussing the importance of net culture in motivating families to take malaria seriously.]
"You just gotta go," Buck Blanchard was saying on a recent Sunday, imploring members of the congregation of St. James's Episcopal Church to choose a mission and hit the road. "You can think you know what a mission is, but you don't really know until you're there."
If ever a man preached to a choir, it was Blanchard that morning in a community room below the sanctuary of the church on West Franklin Street.
Blanchard's the director of missions for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and for the past five years he has worked to make missions easier and more appealing to the 185 parishes in his charge.
An Ohio judge has ruled that five congregations in which the majority of members and clergy left the Episcopal Church and then sought to retain church property are not entitled to keep that property.
The case began in March 2008 when the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Ohio filed suit seeking a ruling on the efforts to transfer property to other Anglican Communion dioceses in South America and Africa.
Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Deena Calabrese said in the ruling April 15 that the "Dennis Canon" (Canon 1.7.4) (passed by the General Convention in 1979 to state that a parish holds its property in trust for the diocese and the Episcopal Church) applied in the case.
The judge said that two of the congregations had not challenged the Dennis Canon for more than 20 years after its enactment. The other three, Calabrese said, applied to the diocese for admission as parishes after its enactment and pledged at the time to be bound by the canon.
The five congregations are the Parish of the Church of the Transfiguration, Cleveland; St. Barnabas' Protestant Episcopal Church, Bay Village; the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, Akron; St. Anne's in the Fields Episcopal Church, Madison; and St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Akron.
"In litigation of this sort nobody wins," Ohio Bishop Mark Hollingsworth said in a statement after the ruling.
"Of the many costs, the distractions from daily attention to the ministry of Christ may be the greatest," he said. "I am very grateful that the people of the diocese have resisted that distraction and kept focused on the worthy work that God gives us to do."
Today the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church announced a settlement with Church of the Word (COTW), Gainesville, the second reached with one of the nine congregations that left the Episcopal Church in 2006 and then sought to retain Episcopal church property. Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands reached a settlement on February 20. “We are pleased to have reached another settlement, an important step toward enabling all involved to focus our shared energies on our important ministries,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, bishop of Virginia.
“This settlement has a set of unique circumstances that led the Diocese to allow COTW to retain Episcopal property,” stated Henry D.W. Burt, secretary of the Diocese of Virginia. “Changes in the immediate vicinity of the church, namely massive construction along Route 29 that eliminates direct access to the church, create significant challenges for any congregation in that space. Should COTW ultimately decide to relocate, the Diocese of Virginia has given them the certainty and control they need to determine what is best for the congregation and the day school they offer to the Gainesville community.”
Under the agreement, the Diocese will retain $1.95 million from a payment by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for loss of value to the property as a result of the construction. In exchange, COTW will retain the church building and personal property, and will be responsible for the mortgage on the property. COTW will also retain $85,000 in cash from the VDOT payment and be permitted to negotiate for additional monies from VDOT. In addition, COTW will voluntarily disaffiliate from the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), the Anglican District of Virginia (ADV) and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) for a period of five years. The pastor of COTW will be allowed to remain in the CANA healthcare plan and retirement plan, if permissible under the conditions of these benefit plans.
We've got a story in today's paper about the visit of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. As is usual, there was quite a bit that I couldn't get into the paper, and even what did get in lost some nuance. So here's an expanded version, with a bit about the Anglican Communion Covenant and more on the Archbishop of Canterbury for all of the ecclesiology wonks out there.
The morning's service for the renewal of vows at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Wilkinsburg was serene, with quite a few laity in attendance. Both Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bishop Kenneth Price, Jr., of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh renewed their vows along with the priests and deacons.
In her sermon, the presiding bishop recounted the night she had accidentally wandered into an immense crowd of tourists who were trying to see the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York last year. She compared it to the crowds that sought to see Jesus on his entrance into Jerusalem, and spoke of the many people who are desperate to see Jesus. Bishop Jefferts Schori, 57, is married with a daughter in the Air Force, and one of her stories about people desperate to see Jesus concerned a parish filled with military families. Some were facing imminent deployment. Others were in desperate financial straights. Several young men bore very visible war wounds on their faces.
In that church, "I think I saw Jesus showing his wounds. . . I saw many reaching out to touch him and others still looking," she said.
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori came to Pittsburgh to talk about the love of Jesus, but knew she would face questions about property litigation and rifts in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The primate of the 2 million-member Episcopal Church made her first official visit as a guest of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is less than half the size it was before a 2008 split. On Tuesday in Wilkinsburg she witnessed the annual Holy Week renewal of vows by three dozen clergy, calling them to reach out to those who suffer.
She reiterated the value of reaching out to each other during a forum Tuesday evening in Trinity Cathedral, Downtown.
"We have need of everyone," she said. "We will continue to be in relationships with everyone who wants to be in relationships with us."
The Episcopal Church will remain a work in progress as it rebuilds from a 2008 schism and seeks to attract members, its leader said on Tuesday.
"We're a community that is on the road together, wrestling with what it means to be a Christian in this particular age," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said before a morning service at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Wilkinsburg. "In order to communicate that message, we have to go out into the community."
That may or may not include establishing traditional churches, said Jefferts Schori, who last visited the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh about a month after a majority of clergy and lay deputies voted to break with the church she leads to follow their more theologically conservative bishop, Robert Duncan, who formed the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Although the two churches battled over property in court, Jefferts Schori said she forsees a day when churches will become something different.
"More faith communities will decide not to have a permanent dedicated structure in the coming years," she said. "They can be a blessing if they are used all the time, but many of them are only used on Sunday mornings. Is that an effective use of the resource?"
Some churches do hold services in other buildings or in homes.
The Episcopal Church Office of Communication will live webcast the Good Friday Service and the Festive Easter morning celebration from Grace Episcopal Church in New York City.
The live webcasts will be available on the home page of the Episcopal Church website. www.episcopalchurch.org . Following the live webcasts, the videos will be available on demand.
On Good Friday, April 22, beginning at noon Eastern, the Good Friday service will include well-known hymns, a dramatic reading of St. John's passion, and reflections on Jesus' seven last words from the cross. (Noon Eastern, 11 am Central, 10 am Mountain, 9 am Pacific).
On Easter Sunday, April 24, the Festive Easter Service celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in liturgy and music will begin at 11 am Eastern (10 am Central, 9 am Mountain, 8 am Pacific).
THE Church should unite this year and vote for the common good of the nation, says Fr Charlie Thomson.
Fr Thomson, who is dean of the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross, said in an interview during Palm Sunday that Christians should demonstrate unity and vote for leaders that would further the development of the nation and engineer its progressive future.
“This is a time when we put our differences away, like we are gathered now. All political parties, all of our positions in the society, who we are should not matter. It is possible for us to have a variety of ideologies but still come together as one and vote in the common interest of the nation,” Fr Thomson said.
He said those that had registered as voters should not miss out on the opportunity to shape the development of the country.
“A vote is a voice. It’s not just to register but exercise your right to vote. There are many people that register but don’t go to vote. When you vote, whether you are voting for a political party or individuals, you will be voting for the common good of the country. You will be voting for the betterment of the lives of people, not looking at individual differences at this point. It is important to see a common good as the focus rather than to see ideologies just for one party,” he said.
The Episcopal Church’s responsibility is to help heal the world, said The Most Rev. Dr. Katherine Jefferts Schori.
Schori made a stop in Jacksonville at St. Anne’s Church Saturday afternoon as part of a tour of the Diocese of East Carolina to speak about “The Episcopal Church as a Community of Welcome and Radical Hospitality,” and moderate a conversation with those in attendance.
“We really understand that the alter is God’s table,” she said. “And going out and sharing what we know about God’s love with the community and the people we encounter — that sending is what mission means. Love our neighbors and help heal God’s world.”
Schori was elected Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in June 2006. She serves as Chief Pastor and Primate to The Episcopal Church’s members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses.
Schori’s trip began Friday at Christ Church in New Bern then moved on to Trinity Center at Pine Knoll Shores Saturday morning before she arrived in Jacksonville.
At Trinity Center she met with 25 area middle and high school age youths during a Sound to Sea program, where she called on her own background, which includes a Ph.D. in oceanography, to discuss the environment.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church is making a Holy Week visit to Pittsburgh, where the Episcopal Diocese split in 2008.
She will answer questions from the public Tuesday evening at Trinity Cathedral, Downtown. She also will preach and preside earlier that day in Wilkinsburg as Episcopal clergy renew their ordination vows to Bishop Kenneth Price Jr., of Pittsburgh.
"I look forward to joining the clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as we gather to renew our ordination vows," Bishop Jefferts Schori said. "There is a particular solemnity about celebrating this rite in a community which has experienced division over those very vows.
"During Holy Week we remember the difficult road of Jesus, and we continue to look toward the Resurrection which God is already bringing about in our midst."
Her visit marks another step for the recovering diocese.
"It's been a long, long time since the diocese has hosted a presiding bishop," said Rich Creehan, the communications director.
Although she visited Calvary Episcopal Church in November 2008, it was as a guest of that parish after the majority at the diocesan convention had voted to leave the Episcopal Church. Prior to that, it had been more than 22 years since a presiding bishop visited the diocese. The original Episcopal diocese refused to recognize Bishop Jefferts Schori after her 2006 election because she had supported the 2003 consecration of a partnered gay bishop.
Some Presbyterians think I'm a bit bonkers for feeling this way, but I enjoy covering meetings of Pittsburgh Presbytery. Amid all of the reports and budgets is evidence of a community of faith at work in local neighborhoods and around the world. At Thursday's meeting members wrestled with budget woes, but also celebrated a 20-year mission partnership with Presbyterians in Malawi that has resulted in clean water programs and improved medical care in Africa, but also in evangelistic outreach and deeper cultural understanding in Pittsburgh.
But the message most critical to the presbytery's own health came from the Rev. Sheldon Sorge, pastor to the presbytery, to prepare the largely conservative body for possible changes to church law that would allow local option on gay ordination. The presbytery has already lost several congregations that believed the denomination was headed in that direction.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) and its predecessors have fought for 40 years over whether the Bible absolutely forbids all same-sex partnerships. The denomination forbids the ordination of anyone who isn't either faithful in heterosexual marriage or abstinent in singleness. The denomination's general assembly has persistently passed legislation to repeal that standard, but the repeal efforts have never been ratified by the nation's presbyteries. Pittsburgh has consistently voted against ratification – the most recent tally was 163-80. Other presbyteries are still voting.
In a letter to the commissioners at this week's meeting, the Rev. Sorge wrote that the repeal of the so-called "chastity and fidelity" provision appears likely. That would leave decisions over whether or ordain or hire gay clergy in the hands of regional presbyteries and congregations.
In the eyes of any woman, young or old, there is a checklist when it comes to a formal dance: jewelry, shoes, hair, and makeup, but most importantly, the dress.
Lufkin Middle School principal Vickie Evans said many times the financial burden of purchasing a new dress or the social humiliation of wearing an ill-fitting hand-me-down keeps some of her students from attending the annual eighth-grade dance.
Members of the St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church youth group hope to lift those financial and social restraints by collecting formal dresses and donating them to their peers.
In conjunction with the annual Maundy projects performed by the church, LMS seventh-grader and member of the youth group, Elisabeth Alvis, went to Evans looking for a service project she and her friends could do during the two days prior to the Easter holiday.