The Rev. Richard Schmidt, former rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Daphne, likens knowing God to the experience of strolling by the sea.
“I can walk along the seashore, telling others what the ocean is like,” he says, “but there is so much more. What about the sailors, the cartographers, the fishermen?
“Could I learn something from each of them?”
For Schmidt, 67, the answer is yes.
Through his five books including “God Seekers: Twenty Centuries of Christian Spiritualities,” and “Praises, Prayers, and Curses: A Conversation With the Psalms,” Schmidt has explored faith in its myriad forms.
While its off topic (as though we had one), my daughter Jeanne "Scout"sent this to me. My all time favorite movie. Thought I'd share it with you all.
"Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."
One of the greatest lines in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird," as well as the film adaptation of the same name, was spoken by the Rev. Sykes as attorney Atticus Finch exited the fictional Maycomb, Alabama, courtroom.
Black spectators, relegated to the courthouse balcony, stood in solidarity with the courageous white lawyer who had defended Tom Robinson, an African-American man wrongly accused of rape in the 1930s Deep South. Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, Atticus' young daughter, watching from the so-called colored balcony, was prodded by the reverend to do the same.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is the story of single dad Atticus Finch and his family, as told from the standpoint of Scout. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the film phenomenon.
Last month, Pope Benedict announced the formation of an American "ordinariate," or special diocese for Episcopal congregations that want to move to Roman Catholicism (driven largely by Episcopalianism's liberal drift). These congregations, the pope ruled, could keep some of their Anglican liturgy. More significantly, a small but sizable number of married Episcopal priests will now become married Catholic priests.
As a married Catholic priest ordained in 1984 under a special provision set forth by Pope John Paul II (for individual priests, judged on an individual basis), I have closely followed Pope Benedict's announcement. I rejoice in this catholic and generous gesture by the pope and am overjoyed that these priests and their families will be welcomed into the Catholic Church. But that is not to say it won't bring its own share of challenges.
My experience as a married Catholic priest for 28 years brings to mind several thoughts, both practical and spiritual. First, the church must support new priests' families financially. During my first years as a married Catholic priest, there were times when we could not pay the heating bill. When I was ordained, it was made quite clear to me that I should not look to the church as my main source of income but rather to a full-time job outside of the church. My parish duties have thus always been secondary.
Seven priests have been nominated to stand for election to become the fourth bishop of the Shreveport-based Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana.
The Very Rev. John Burwell, 60, rector, Church of the Holy Cross, Isle of Palms, South Carolina and rector, All Saints Episcopal Church, Florence, South Carolina (Diocese of South Carolina);
The Rt. Rev. William Gregg, 61, assistant bishop in the Diocese of North Carolina;
The Very Rev. Jacob Owensby, 54, dean, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Shreveport, Louisiana (Diocese of Western Louisiana);
The Rev. Canon Gregg Riley, 63, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Western Louisiana;
The Rev. Frederick Robinson, 60, rector, Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Florida (Diocese of Southwest Florida);
The Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, 47, canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of Louisiana; and
The Rev. Canon Larry Wilkes, rector, Church of the Epiphany, New Iberia, Louisiana (Diocese of Western Louisiana).
More information about the nominees is available here. The nominees will participate in a series of open question-and-answer forums March 19-21 and will have the opportunity to meet with the clergy and other members of the diocese.
The person selected will succeed the Rt. Rev. Bruce MacPherson, third bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, who announced his intention to resign when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72 in July 2012.
From its stately spot at the corner of Cumberland and James streets, Emmanuel Episcopal Church resembles a silent, stone sentinel overlooking the Twin City’s downtown commercial area.
With its British-inspired architecture, Emmanuel opens its trademark red doors every week just as it has for the past 150 years. This Sunday, the congregation invites the general public to help celebrate the landmark anniversary. Special services are scheduled at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. — featuring the church choir and a brass ensemble — while a birthday party featuring cupcakes, balloons and storytelling is set for 9:15 a.m., Senior Warden Lee Vaughn said.
“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “We’ve had some very interesting ministers or rectors — priests in residence at an Episcopal church — we’ve fought the Civil War at least 30 times and the battle of the Episcopal church just as many times. We really identify ourselves as a congregation first — a church family. That lives on. That’s what we’re focused on right now."
Although its doors are still open, Christ Church in Canaan may be in the final months of its existence. The venerable Episcopal church has served the community since 1844 but its congregation has dwindled and it with it, its resources.
If, indeed, the church closes, the effect will ripple through the community. Its faithful congregants will be most directly affected, deprived of the spiritual comfort of a beautiful sanctuary where some of them were baptized and married. A classic stone church, based on the design of Richard Upjohn, the American architect who pioneered the restoration of Gothic architecture for American churches, its construction materials were dug out of Canaan’s rocky hills and it has been a defining presence in the center of Canaan for 168 years. Without its congregation it will become a hollow presence, another rent in the fabric of the town.
Beyond their liturgical functions, churches are cornerstones of their communities. They provide social outlets, spiritual succor and tangible assistance to the needy. Their loss diminishes the sense of unity in towns, even for those who are not physically members of a given church.
Seven men — including a bishop, two canons to the ordinary and a cathedral dean — are nominees to become the fourth Bishop of Western Louisiana. Four of the nominees live in Louisiana and three serve in the diocese.
The nominees are:
The Very Rev. Canon John B. Burwell, 60, rector, Church of the Holy Cross, Sullivan’s Island, S.C.;
The Rt. Rev. William O. Gregg, 61, Bishop of Eastern Oregon (1997-2000) and assisting bishop in the Diocese of North Carolina;
The Very Rev. Jacob W. Owensby, 54, dean of St. Mark’s Cathedral, Shreveport;
The Rev. Canon Gregg L. Riley, 63, canon to the ordinary, Western Louisiana;
The Rev. Frederick A. Robinson, 60, rector, Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, Fla.;
The Rev. Canon E. Mark Stevenson, 47, canon to the ordinary, Diocese of Louisiana;
The Rev. Canon Larry G. Wilkes, 61, rector, Church of the Epiphany, New Iberia, La. The diocese will elect its next bishop April 21.
The AP is reporting that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died in his sleep Tuesday night at the age of 88.
The retired head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was an uncharged central figure in a child sex-abuse case that involves the alleged shuffling of predator priests to unwitting parishes, the AP reports.
Bevilacqua died days after lawyers battled over his competence to testify at an upcoming trial at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary—in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood—after battling dementia and an undisclosed form of cancer, an archdiocese spokeswoman told the AP.
He had been the spiritual leader of the 1.5 million-member Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1988 until his retirement in 2003.
The Post-Gazette is reporting after he retired in 2003, he left the cardinal's residence on City Avenue for the apartment at the seminary and rarely appeared in public.
Cardinal Bevilacqua, who was bishop of the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese from 1983 to 1987, was emblematic of the church to which he had devoted himself since age 14: progressive on some social-justice issues, staunchly orthodox on matters of doctrine and sexuality, and unfailingly deferential to the will of Rome, according to the PG.
Prom Dress Express (PDX), a project of Grace Episcopal Church in Winfield, will be opening its doors on March 10 this year. This is the fourth year that the church has been able to offer Prom Dress Express to the young women of the community — and they hope to have an even bigger selection of dresses this year!
PDX staff is soliciting donations of gowns and shoes that can be made available in the store. They can take donations any time by appointment or Grace Episcopal Church is open Tuesday-Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Please call the church office at 221-4252 to make arrangements to drop off dresses off during business hours, or at other times as well.
Gowns should be in good, clean, gently used or new condition. They accept and offer all sizes of gowns and shoes. They also accept donations of evening bags, so that young women can choose something to complement their gowns.
As has been true in years past, PDX invites all young women from area high schools to come in and choose from a selection of long and short gowns, shoes and jewelry. All items are available completely free of charge.
Andrew Jackson was president back when St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Waterford was built in 1831.
The U.S. then had 24 states, and only two were west of the Mississippi River.
St. Peter's is believed to be the oldest stone, brick or masonry Episcopal church west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Today, however, the historic structure is suffering from roof problems that have church members and leaders of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania talking about what's next for St. Peter's.
"We're certainly not moving toward demolishing the church," said the Right Rev. Sean Rowe, bishop of the Erie-based diocese. "That would be our very last option."
While the full price of repairs isn't known, officials said the church can't afford it and that the diocese isn't in a position to fund it alone. One possibility is to look for partners in the community.
"I wish I had an easy answer," Rowe said. "In this case, there certainly isn't."
Keith Miller, a prolific Christian author, speaker, counselor and longtime Austinite, died Jan. 22 after a bout with cancer. He was 84.
Miller, who had degrees in theology, psychology and finance, published nearly two dozen books — many of them Christian bestsellers — beginning with "The Taste of New Wine: A Book About Life" in the mid-1960s. According to Miller's website, 2 million copies of that work are in print. His books have been translated into 25 languages.
Miller was known worldwide for what former American-Statesman religion columnist Eileen Flynn called "a fresh perspective on Christian spirituality."
"My job," Miller told Flynn, "is to help remove the blocks between you and God."
Early in his life, Miller worked in the oil business. Before he was 30, he had buried both his parents and a brother who died while serving in the Air Force. Another low period came in the mid-'70s when his first marriage ended. Emerging from that crisis galvanized his resolve to help others who were struggling with spirituality.
"I just wanted a chance to help people who, like me, had squandered God's love and gifts," Miller wrote.
You're a priest in a boxing ring. Do you turn the other cheek or keep your hands up, lead with your body and throw a left hook?
"I started for Lent in 2007," said the Rev. Patrick J. Miller, 46, who is the rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 3816 Bellaire Blvd. "Instead of giving something up, I took something on.
"I gave up my money and my pride," he said, laughing.
About five years ago, Miller was working at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston when he saw "Boxing Lessons" painted on the side of a two-story building. Wearing his clerical collar, he entered the Savarese Fight Gym at 1612 Austin St.
Inside, he found exercise for his mind, body and spirit.
"Boxing is violent," he acknowledged. "You're hurting other people, trying to knock them out. It is the antithesis of what a priest is called to do. It is completely foreign to anything I've ever done in my life. But I've found the boxing gym to be a wisdom place."
Training about three times a week, he said, common-sense rules of the fight club often feel like epiphanies he can use in pastoral care.
The breakaway Episcopal congregations in Virginia, who left in 2006 over the American denomination’s liberal theology, have lost the latest round in the legal battle over the church property. Some have warned their members to expect to move within a few months.
In a 113-page ruling issued Jan. 10, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows reversed a ruling he made in 2008 giving custody to the conservative congregations. The Virginia Supreme Court overturned that ruling in 2010 and ordered a new trial.
At issue is ownership of seven Virginia churches, including two prominent, historic congregations that trace their roots to George Washington: Truro Church in Fairfax and The Falls Church, for which the city of Falls Church is named. But it is not clear that the denomination, on the verge of finally winning the battle that began in 2006, has either the members or the money to keep operating the churches themselves.
Christ Church Episcopal may be back home in its Johnson Square building, but squabbling over church property continues.
The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and Christ Church Episcopal on Monday asked Chatham County Superior Court Chief Judge Michael Karpf to hold the Rev. Marcus Robertson and Christ Church Savannah in contempt of court.
They argue Robertson and Christ Church Savannah have failed to comply with a court order to return a $2 million endowment fund and other property after the two congregations agreed to the return of the historic Johnson Square property in December.
The civil action alleges Christ Church Savannah, the Anglican congregation, has refused to relinquish control of such items as the endowment fund held by the Savannah Bank, corporate, business and other records, the domain name and website www.christchurchsavannah.org.
It also argues the Anglican congregation has failed to relinquish the names “Christ Church Savannah” and “The Mother Church of Georgia” despite three court rulings against them.
The motion filed by attorney James Elliott of Valdosta asks that Robertson and his group be cited for contempt of court and enjoined from continuing to hold the items cited from the diocese and Episcopal congregation.
THE INFLUENTIAL archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, is of the view that one the challenges bedevilling the Church is the failure of leaders to accept responsibility for misdeeds.
In an interview with The Gleaner last week, Archbishop Sentamu argued that if the Church is to move forward, errant religious leaders are required to seize the opportunity to own up to their transgressions instead of indulging in pointless blame games whenever contraventions are exposed.
"I believe that anyone in leadership is in a position of trust and to betray that trust requires a greater acknowledgement than just saying I have messed up, and I am going to try to earn forgiveness from the community that I have wronged," asserted the high-ranking cleric in the Church of England.
Only the archbishop of Canterbury is higher on the hierarchy of the Anglican structure than the archbishop of York.
A Ugandan by birth, Sentamu is the 97th archbishop of York.
He lamented that whenever people commit wrong, they tended to blame something or somebody else.
Millie Campbell, 76 years old, is one of the people praying for New Orleans, a city still recovering from the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster and experiencing a murderous crime wave.
A couple of times per week, Campbell and her companion Betty Minor, 69, drive slowly around assigned neighborhoods, praying for their city, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune via Religion News Service.
On a recent trip, Campbell backed her blue Chevrolet away from her spotless brick home. “Oh God,” she said, “we thank you for the blood of Jesus.” Then she cranked the wheel straight, put the car into drive, and headed slowly up Frenchmen Street, one hand on the wheel, the other turned upward toward the heavens.
“Touch this block in the name of Jesus,” she continued. Also in the front seat, Minor filled in the gaps between Campbell’s appeals: “Hallelujah … Glory, glory.”
Half a dozen others also do the prayer drives. They pray for an end to the scourge of murders sapping the city — 199 last year, and 17 or so on the streets Campbell drove last week.
The Euclid Avenue Church of God and the former Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration sit empty on this city's former Millionaires' Row, remnants of a heyday when mansions marched east from downtown.
Their congregations have fled. And historic preservationists fear that both churches will disappear, too, swallowed up by the nearby Cleveland Clinic's appetite for land.
The churches say they have no money (or congregations) for upkeep, and the world-renowned hospital says it has no need for churches. Which begs the question: what happens to architectural gems that no one can afford to maintain?
The Cleveland Restoration Society is pitting itself against the health care giant -- the city's largest employer -- over the fate of the dilapidated churches at the edge of the hospital's main campus.
The clinic has offered to pay $500,000 for the land beneath the landmarked Euclid Avenue Church of God; the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio has put the neighboring Transfiguration up for sale for $1.9 million.
Real estate insiders say both sites would make sense for parking or commercial development. The property owners see a chance to unload unwanted buildings to a deep-pocketed buyer. But two city boards have rejected a request from the Euclid Avenue Church of God to demolish its building, a city landmark. And the Restoration Society is trumpeting that the clinic should use its muscle and money to remake both churches.
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council Jan. 29 approved a 2013-2015 draft budget that includes money meant to “open the door to doing long-term reform of how we do business as the church.”
Executive Council spent the majority of its Jan. 27-29 meeting here at the Conference Center at the Maritime Institute discussing the draft budget, alternating between discussing big-picture issues and negotiating specific line items. It also passed what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori called a “highly significant” resolution expressing solidarity with the people of the Republic of South Sudan.
The draft budget represents $104.9 million in income from dioceses and investments plus other sources such as facilities rental, and an equal amount of expenses. It does not include the church’s refugee resettlement work, which is performed under government grants, according to Treasurer Kurt Barnes.
He said the draft budget is due to be posted here in the next few days.
The budget, which will not be final until General Convention acts in July, proposes to set aside money for a “churchwide consultation” on the Episcopal Church’s future shape and work. It also includes money for pilot projects that Chief Operating Officer Stacy Sauls said could show how the church’s purchasing and organizational power could help congregations and dioceses free up more of their resources for mission work.
Bishop Neff Powell, the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, said Friday afternoon that he has called for the hiring of a successor and plans to retire by spring 2013.
Powell, bishop since 1996, made his decision formal during the diocese's 93rd annual council meeting, in front of more than 200 congregational leaders who gave him a standing ovation.
"I feel it's a good decision, and it's a tender decision," Powell said. "I love this diocese, and it's going to mean saying goodbye to it."
Powell, 64, is leaving as he nears retirement age and as the diocese - like the Episcopal Church itself - is grappling with slowly declining membership, attendance and revenues. A committee is presenting over the weekend a proposal that would partially decentralize resources to the parishes.
"Rather than me staying for these changes, I think it's time to call for a new bishop," Powell said.
Powell graduated from Claremont McKenna College in California in 1973, served small parishes in Oregon until 1983, then served administrative roles for the Diocese of North Carolina before he was named the fifth bishop of the Southwest Virginia diocese.
He was consecrated to the office of bishop in a ceremony at Burruss Hall auditorium at Virginia Tech in October 1996, with 21 other bishops, including retiring Bishop Heath Light, playing a role.
Following on the recent court ruling remanding all properties currently occupied by breakaway congregations from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia back to the diocese, Virginia Episcopal Bishop Shannon Johnston called the current time "one of the most defining moments in all of our 400 year history" in a pastoral address given to the 217th annual Virginia Diocese Council meeting in Reston yesterday.
The court ruling means that seven properties in Virginia held by breakaway groups, including at the historic Falls Church in downtown Falls Church, must be handed back over to the Episcopal Diocese. It is the latest development in a six-year-long dispute that began with votes by breakaway groups to leave the main Episcopal denomination in protest of, among other things, its election of an openly-gay priest to standing as a bishop in 2003.
"The future is absolutely bristling with possibilities. This is a truly historic time in the life of our diocese," he said, announcing the formation of "Dayspring," a "broad, integrated effort to bring vision, strategy and execution to (1) our support of the continuing congregations, (2) our re-start of congregations where we have existing property, (3) our recruitment and placement of clergy where they will be needed and (4) our determination of the use or disposition of other properties and assets to be returned to us." Johnston said he will head the effort, himself.