Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stay away from sexual immorality-Anglican Archbishop

From Ghana-

THE ANGLICAN Archbishop of Ghana, Most Rev Prof Daniel Yinkah Sarfo, has condemned the upsurge of immoral activities by the people during the celebration of Christmas.

He said with great worry that “it is unacceptable for all of us to engage in sinful activities such as fornication and adultery during the Christmas period.”

Most Rev Prof Yinkah Sarfo added that others also consumed alcoholic beverages in large amounts during the yuletide to get intoxicated, stressing that such acts were also intolerable.

According to him, Jesus Christ whose birth is marked on Christmas was a holy person without any blemish; therefore, those who marked the saviour’s birthday with immoral activities should stop.

He said the Holy Bible and for that matter Christianity as a religion, frowned on all forms of immoral activities so the populace should take note and behave accordingly.

More here-

Bethlehem wall is erected in Piccadilly

From Church Times-

IN THE pouring rain at six p.m. on Tuesday night, in the heart of London, workmen in hard hats, elevated eight metres above the ground, were not quite finished. Nevertheless, just the top of the tower of St James's, Piccadilly, remained visible, the rest of Sir Christopher Wren's church obscured by a thick grey wall, topped with barbed wire. Floodlights powered by a generator struggled in the wind and rain.

Despite the conditions, more than a hundred people were present to witness the unveiling of Wall, a replica of the separation barrier constructed in Bethlehem. The installation is part of a 12-day festival at the church - Bethlehem Unwrapped - designed to celebrate Bethlehem through art, music, food and debate.

Members of the public are invited to write prayers and messages of hope on the wall. Inside the church is an exhibition of art by children living in Bethlehem, entitled All They Paint is the Wall. On Tuesday night, their pictures were projected on to Wall, bearing witness to the collection's title, a quote from one of the children's teachers at Dar Al-Kalima Lutheran school.

More here-

An open Pope Francis, closed churches, splintered communities

From Cleveland-

 Pope Francis was named Time magazine's Person of the Year "as someone who has changed the tone and perception and focus of one of the world's largest institutions in an extraordinary way."

Our Sunday Visitor, the world's largest English-language Catholic publisher, congratulated him as the world's "new voice of conscience."

In Northeast Ohio, believers and non-believers said they welcomed the spirit of compassion and inclusiveness that they found in his words and actions.

More here-

COMMENTARY: Lessons learned by a young priest

From The Washington Post-

In the perfection of hindsight, I see that I was clueless when I knelt before the Episcopal bishop of Indianapolis on a snowy December night 36 years ago and claimed my prize: ordination as a priest.

I had no clue how to serve a congregation. Other than planning Sunday worship — the easiest of all clergy tasks — I was unprepared.

How to make a hospital visit; how to lead a council whose only instinct was not to spend money; how to grow a church; how to comfort the lost and to humble the found; how to hear what the world needed from us — I knew none of it.

I had worked hard in seminary. If someone wanted a seminar on church politics, or an in-depth exegesis of the Gospel of Mark, I was ready.

But people weren’t asking those questions. They were asking how to survive another 20 years on the assembly line, how to deal with personal failure, how to rebuild a marriage shattered by alcoholism, how to raise children in a dangerous world.

More here-

Friday, December 27, 2013

President Obama seizes chance to highlight common ground with Pope Francis

From Florida-

When a White House speechwriter turned in a draft of a major speech on economic policy this month, President Barack Obama sent it back with an unusual instruction: Add a reference to the pope.

The final version of the speech quoted directly from Pope Francis' recent letter to the faithful: "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless per

son dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?" he said.

The citation marked a notable development in Obama's complex and sometimes confrontational relationship with the Roman Catholic Church: After several years of high-profile clashes with U.S. bishops, Obama is seizing the chance to highlight common ground with the bishop of Rome.

Quoting the pope isn't likely to yield direct electoral dividends for Obama's party -- the once-vaunted "Catholic vote" largely disappeared long ago. But in a string of effusive praise, the president has made clear he sees the pope as a like-minded thinker and potentially useful ally in a crucial battle of ideas, particularly on the importance of shrinking the gulf between rich and poor, a subject Obama has pushed repeatedly but with limited success.

Read more here:

Historic parishes converge in worship service

From North Carolina-

As families and communities celebrate the birth of Christ this holiday season, two Morganton congregations are developing an exciting relationship. The groundbreaking union of two historic churches proves that, in a world where judgment and hatred are
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and the historically African-American St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church both have their own stories to tell. Both are deeply rooted in the history of Burke County, and they began sharing a priest in 2008 when each was facing financial difficulty.

never rid, love and unity still exist.

Since then, joined together by the Rev. Francis King, the two parishes become one. As a new year approaches, the two have created an unconventional but extraordinary union, worshipping and serving the community under one roof as St. Mary’s-St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

Like with any union, though, the individual histories of each component play an indelible role in the legacy of the whole.

More here-

My ordeal in the hands of kidnappers — Ex-CAN President, Peter Akinola

From Nigeria-

A former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria(CAN), Peter Akinola, who was kidnapped by gunmen on Tuesday, and freed later that day by a search party led by the Ogun state Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, has narrated his ordeal in the hands of his abductors.

Speaking exclusively to PREMIUM TIMES at his Abeokuta residence on Wednesday morning, shortly before he headed out to church for Christmas service, the retired primate of the Anglican Church said the gunmen pounced on him and his driver as he was leaving this foundation’s office along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

He said the four-men gang blocked his car, and pulled him and his driver out at gun point. One of the bandits then took over the steering wheel while another member pinned down the cleric and his driver at the back.

Two other gang members followed behind in a Toyota Primera car they brought for the operation.
“We could not even identify the road the bandits were taking us through as we were ordered to lie face down or else they would blow us up,” the former CAN leader said.

More here-

Thursday, December 26, 2013

It’s Merry Christmas, Not Happy Christmas

From First Things-

Christmas is conspicuously the only time of year when the word “merry” receives heavy use. The greeting “Merry Christmas” dates back to at least 1565, in which year the author of the Hereford Municipal Manuscript wrote “And thus I comytt you to god, who send you a mery Christmas & many.” Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843, pushed it forward, as did industrialization: The first commercially sold Christmas card (also printed in 1843) contained the salutation “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.”

Yet “Merry Christmas” did not gain universal support. The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore’s, I mean, not Nikolai Gogol’s) ends with the words, “A Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.” Queen Elizabeth II wishes British subjects a “Happy Christmas” in her annual Christmas broadcasts, and the phrase enjoys a broad general currency the U.K.

What accounts for the difference? Queen Elizabeth, a woman of serious low-church piety, is said to prefer “happy” to “merry” because she dislikes “merry’s” connotation of boisterousness, even slight intoxication. (Similarly, in Holland some of the more strictly reformed Dutch prefer Zalig Kerstfeest—“Blessed Christmas”–to Vrolijk Kerstmis—“Merry Christmas.”)

More here-

The Church of England's unglamorous, local future

From The Guardian-

The Church of England is already disestablished in all the ways that really matter. Whatever it tells itself, it has drifted to the margins of national life. Outside the upper classes and the traditional professions it's no longer an essential part of the way in which the country understands itself.

England no longer capitalises "church". This isn't a problem about belief in God, or atheism. The number of people who call themselves Anglicans has declined a great deal faster in the last 30 years than the number who say they believe in God. Detailed polling shows that the problem gets worse as you move down the age groups, so that more people under 24 believe the church is a force for bad in society than suppose it's a force for good.

This isn't a problem with legal establishment – something that isn't a live issue. It is about the role of the church in the country's imagination of itself. And I think it is significant, and worrying for the church that the two huge national ritual self-presentations – the funeral of Princess Diana and the Olympics opening ceremony – show a marked diminution in Christian and especially Anglican content. The Diana funeral was about half Anglican, and half teddy bears. The Olympic ceremony, choreographed by two Catholics, one lapsed, had nothing Anglican in it at all.

More here-

Middle East Christians being ‘massacred’: Anglican leader

From The National-

Christians in the Middle East are being “attacked and massacred” and driven into exile, the leader of the world’s Anglicans said on Wednesday in his first Christmas sermon.

Justin Welby used his first Christmas Day address as Archbishop of Canterbury to remember those suffering for their faith in the cradle of Christianity.

“Today, singing of Bethlehem, we see injustices in Palestine and Israel, where land is taken or rockets are fired, and the innocent suffer,” he told the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral in south-east England.

“We see injustice in the ever more seriously threatened Christian communities of the Middle East.

More here-

A Brooklyn Church Uncovers a Long-Hidden Celestial Scene

From Brooklyn-

At Christmas, thoughts at many churches turn to a certain star.

At Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, thoughts are of a thousand stars or more.

That’s how many long-hidden stars have been uncovered in the ceiling of the building, a 165-year-old Episcopal church at Hicks Street and Grace Court, under a $5 million renovation that includes a new copper roof, new insulation, new lighting, new wiring and a much-needed cleaning of many of the 3,200 organ pipes.

What had looked until a few months ago like a dull ceiling of plain wood planks turned out to be a dazzling celestial extravaganza of eight-pointed stars in gold, yellow and red — so lacy they might be taken for snowflakes — set in an expansive vault of royal blue.

More here-

Bombs targeting Christians kill dozens in Baghdad

From The Guardian-

Iraq's Christians celebrated Christmas behind blast walls and barbed wire as at least 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian areas, some by a car bomb near a church after a service.

Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21, an officer said.

The Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic church, Louis Sako, said the parked car bomb had exploded after a Christmas mass in the capital's southern Dora neighbourhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38. He said none of the worshippers had been hurt, and he did not believe the church was the target.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but Iraq's dwindling Christian community, which is estimated to number about 400,000 to 600,000 people, has often been targeted by al-Qaida and other insurgents who see the Christians as heretics.

Other targets include civilians in restaurants, cafes or crowded public areas, as well as Shias and members of the security forces, attacked in an attempt to undermine confidence in the Shia-led government and stir up Iraq's already simmering sectarian tensions.

More here-

Local spiritual leaders see endless lessons in Christmas

From Western Massachusetts-

Meanwhile, Bishop Douglas J. Fisher, who heads the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, which includes Worcester and surrounding communities, said Christmas is complicated because of the things people attach to it.

He likened the holiday to the Fisher Christmas tree, which is dressed up in a mix of religious ornaments and decorations that are of personal significance to the family.

For example, angels hang side by side with ornaments acquired from every place where the Fishers have vacationed.

"The Christmas tree has all this stuff on it that seems to have nothing to do with Christmas," said Bishop Fisher, in his message to the Episcopal flock in Central Massachusetts. "But isn't Christmas itself that way? It isn't just the story of what happened to Jesus."

He said Christmas Eve is the most emotional night of the year, with Christians using the solemn vigil to present their own "stories."

He said some are joyous while others are sad. 

More here-

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All Saints Church in Bay Head returns home in time for Christmas

From New Jersey-

The Rev. Neil Turton stood at the front of All Saints Episcopal Church in Bay Head on Sunday morning, raised his arms in the air and exclaimed, "We are home."

"We are home."

That declaration follows more than a year of reconstruction inside the cedar-shake seaside sanctuary that nearly washed away during Hurricane Sandy.

"When Sandy came in, it took us all really by surprise. We did not expect it to be what it was. And we almost lost (the church)," said Turton, the church rector. "We were very fortunate that it wasn’t a whole lot worse. But it was bad enough."

The shoreline meets the Atlantic Ocean just three blocks east of the Episcopal church that sits on Lake Avenue. Scow Ditch, which feeds into Barnegat Bay, flows directly behind the building.

More here-

South Sudanese Coalition of Episcopal Churches Call for Cessation of Violence in South Sudan

From All Africa-

As a spiritual body, South Sudan Coalition of Episcopal Churches in the United States is concerned with the level of violence taking place in Juba, Bortown, Akobo and other areas of South Sudan. As a body of Christ, South Sudan Coalition of Episcopal Churches in the United States strongly condemned senseless killing of civilians.

As a result:

A. We are urging President Kiir's government to declare:

Ceasefire and refrain from escalating the conflict

Protect all civilians across the country

Agree to dialogue as a way to resolve any political differences

B. We are urging Dr. Riek Machar and all dissatisfied parties to:

Accept ceasefire and/or initiate ceasefire

Adhere to principles of democracy that they are advocating

Protect civilians, respect their rights and properties in towns and/or areas under their control

More here-

Utah Episcopal Church welcomes gay marriage legalization

From Utah-

The Episcopal Church of Utah has welcomed the legalization of same-sex marriage in the staunchly conservative state, saying it recognizes the dignity of all Utahans.

Gay Star News reports Scott Hayashi, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, welcomed last week's ruling by US District Judge Robert J. Shelby that overturned the state's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

"I rejoice that [Shelby] has struck down Utah's Amendment 3," Hayashi said, referring to the state's 2004 constitutional amendment that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
"All people should have the right to due process and equal protection enshrined in the 14th Amendment," Hayashi continued. "Gay and lesbian people are human beings with hopes, dreams and the need for love. I celebrate that now they will have access to the same fulfillment enjoyed by heterosexual people. They are people made in the image of God."

Read more:

Trinity Episcopal Rebuilding A Year After Almost Losing It All

From Alabama-

Rector Bailey Norman takes me around the church campus; while the main church building still isn't open for service they've come a long way from Christmas Day--when they almost lost the whole building.

“The engineer we brought in walked in and told us within five seconds to get out this building is in danger of collapse and we thought we were going to lose the building at that point,” says Rector Bailey Norman. 

Today repairs continue--and services have been held in this smaller fellowship hall.  The destruction has brought the congregation closer together.

“One of the things I'm very proud of is that we've been able to have more of an impact in our community, not to the extent I would like we've gotten to know our neighbors better they've been able to know us,” says Norman.  While no one would ever want a repeat of the Christmas Day tornado, this disaster has given this church a unique opportunity to grow.  The church bought land next door--they haven't decided what to do with the extra space yet--but the rector says it won't be a parking lot expansion--they want to do something to better the community and ministry.  In this year of rebuilding the rector says there are some parallels between this building's troubles and the Christmas story.  

More here-

Monday, December 23, 2013

Same-sex ceremony held at Fort Bragg's chapel

From North Carolina-

The North Carolina home of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division and the Green Berets is opening the base chapel to same-sex ceremonies.

Fort Bragg saw Maj. Daniel Toven and Johnathan Taylor exchanged vows on Saturday.

The pair married in Washington, D.C., in August. The Fort Bragg ceremony wasn't a wedding, which is barred by state law. But the event drawing together more than 100 people to bless the pair's marriage is believed to be the first for a same-sex couple at Fort Bragg.

Attendees at the Episcopal service included a one-star general and a command sergeant major.
Also attending were Lt. Col. Heather Mack and her wife, who initially was barred from membership in the Fort Bragg Officers' Spouses Club before the group relented earlier this year.

More here-

Bishop Shand to retire after more than 11 years leading the Diocese of Easton

From Easton-

The Rt. Rev. James J. Shand has announced that he will retire as the tenth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton after more than 11 years in that position.

Shand, 67, informed the clergy of the diocese, the Diocesan Council, and the Diocesan Standing Committee, that he will resign as of July 1, 2014. He has been bishop of Easton since Jan. 25, 2003.

Normally when a bishop retires, a search is conducted for a permanent successor. But in this case, Shand is suggesting the election of a provisional bishop to serve in an interim capacity for an as-yet undetermined period of time.

“It is my belief, and the belief of the Standing Committee, that the Diocese of Easton would benefit from a period of discernment, questioning, and self-study before moving into the lengthy process of a search,” he said in a letter announcing his retirement.

More here-

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Santa's white? Christmas spirit is what counts

From Jack Kelly-

The portrayal of Santa Claus as an old white man makes her uncomfortable, wrote Aisha Harris in Slate Dec. 10. Santa should be portrayed as a penguin instead, she said.

It bothers me not at all that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were black. But if it did, would that justify me demanding you pretend they were white?

“This is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa,” said Megyn Kelly (sadly, no relation) on her Fox News program. “And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.”

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Catholics call it the 'Pope Francis effect'

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette-

In an intimate ceremony at SS. Simon and Jude Church in Scott on a recent weekday afternoon, Christopher Fox bowed his head as the Rev. Jay Donahue dipped a seashell into a font of holy water and poured it on him three times, baptizing him in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Mr. Fox then donned a floor-length alb, or white robe, a symbol of his baptism, and was confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church.

His confirmation name: Francis.

It was mainly a tribute to his late father's name, but it was also a salute to the new pope, who has fired the imagination of many Catholics and non-Catholics alike with a bracing series of humble actions, blunt criticisms of church bureaucrats and conciliatory gestures to the marginalized.

Mr. Fox said he was already in the process of joining the church when Francis became pope, but "with the pope coming along, it just added that spark to it all."

Read more: