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Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church puts church on stage and in the community

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 1:57pm

Editor’s note: This is the second in a continuing series about the reinvention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. Other stories in the series can be found here.

[Episcopal News Service – Arlington, Texas] The scene behind the altars of most Episcopal churches never changes. What is known as the reredos includes a cross, perhaps some elaborate carved wood or stonework with or without a picture and maybe a stained glass window. Such is not the case for St. Alban’s Episcopal Church.

The members of this church have been worshipping on the stage and in the seats of Theater Arlington for eight years and the set of whatever play is being offered forms a reredos of sorts.

Regardless of the backdrop, the Episcopalians arrive every Sunday morning, open the closet where they store the hardware of church and set up on the stage. Because it is a working theater, things happen – or don’t happen. There have been Sundays without lights or a sound system; and mornings when there’s no set but plenty of dismantled stuff all over the stage.

“But, every week, people put that together and every week God shows up,” says the Rev. Kevin Johnson, who has been St. Alban’s priest-in-charge for about 18 months.

St. Alban’s member Priscilla Promise said, “It’s so much more meaningful, honestly, when you put it together every Sunday and everyone’s a part of it.”

The on-stage nature of Eucharist is symbolic of how St. Alban’s has found new ways to be the church in downtown Arlington. When Episcopalians found themselves exiled after their fellow parishioners chose to follow then-Bishop Jack Iker out of the Episcopal Church but claimed the St. Alban’s building, one of the Episcopal members that had a connection with Theater Arlington suggested they might gather there for worship. The theater was not used on Sunday mornings and the organization also had room for church offices and classrooms in a building across the street where it rented space.

Fast-forward to 2015 when the office building went up for sale. The theater did not have the money to buy it but St. Alban’s had connections with the Episcopal Church Building Fund. Several congregations in the diocese had participated in its Recasting Assets program, a process to help congregations identify their place in the community – to understand their relevance; to build mission and value in the world around them; and to use their real-estate assets to develop financial self-sustainability.

The fund agreed to loan Theatre Arlington $500,000 – structured as a mortgage – to support its work in the community and to support St. Alban’s ministry. The theater could remain in the office building and continue, along with the Downtown Arlington Arts Management Corp., to spearhead the development of the Arlington Arts District. The rent St. Alban’s pays now goes to the theater. The congregation now sees itself in partnership with the theater and vice versa.

St. Alban’s has always given money for Theatre Arlington’s Camp Be a Star, a week-long theater summer camp for homeless children and children in transitional housing in Arlington. Recently, the members have begun volunteering during the camp and the two organizations are exploring ways to offer camp-like classes all year.

“Everything that we’re doing, they’re a part of,” said Cindy Honeycutt, the theater’s education and outreach director, of the St. Alban’s members.

The church attracts new people to its Sunday services via the internet and from signs outside on the sidewalks. “This parish, because of its history, is really committed to … valuing every human being that walks through that door – every human being,” said Johnson.

For instance, there’s a homeless shelter nearby and some of its residents make their way into the theater for Eucharist.

The parishioners, Johnson said, treat those folks “as real people, not as ‘homeless people’ first” and by doing so, “they get to see the God that is in that person, and it changes them.”

St. Alban’s is one of the congregations benefitting from the wider church’s willingness to grant the diocese money to support its growing ministry. Johnson’s part-time salary has been increased to full time.

“We’re grateful for the investment and the trust that the rest of the church has placed in this parish,” Johnson said. “I think they see, as the people of this place see, really great opportunities for expanded ministry; for new, creative ways of being church in the community.”

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

Canterbury backs Southern Africa primate in church v state row

Wed, 01/04/2017 - 12:21pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has declared his support for the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, in a dispute with the South African president.

In his Christmas sermon, Archbishop Thabo had rejected a call from President Jacob Zuma for the church to stay out of politics. In a statement, President Zuma later said that he had been referring to party politics. In response, Archbishop Thabo welcomed the clarification but insisted the church would not keep quiet and would not keep out of politics.

Full article.

Reorganized Diocese of Fort Worth is ‘participating in resurrection’

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 2:05pm

Editor’s note: This is the first in a continuing series about the reinvention of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth.

[Episcopal News Service – Fort Worth, Texas] For Episcopalians who think of “church” as a place to go rather than a thing to be, the continuing Diocese of Fort Worth has some stories to share.

They are stories of more than reorganizing – or even resuscitating – a diocesan and congregational structure after a majority of former clergy and lay leaders voted in November 2008 to leave the Episcopal Church. They are stories of resurrection – of Episcopalians reinventing church and, in the process, themselves.

“We‘re not trying to rebuild an old church,” says Fort Worth Bishop Provisional J. Scott Mayer, who is also the bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas. “We are trying to participate in resurrection to become a new body.”

Those people have built new ministries and, in the process, are developing new ways of being the church as they serve their communities.

And, when they “go to church,” some Fort Worth Episcopalians are worshipping in unconventional spaces such as a theater and a strip mall. In one instance, the Wise County Episcopalians are worshipping in a building that began its life as the Episcopal Mission of the Ascension in 1889 and during the intervening years has been a mattress factory and, most recently, a wedding chapel.

Even the bishop’s office is different. While the model of a bishop provisional is being used elsewhere in the Episcopal Church, it is still a relative rarity but one which Mayer thinks illustrates how dioceses could pool their resources.

He notes that Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania Bishop Sean Rowe, who is also the bishop provisional of the Diocese of Bethlehem in the eastern part of that state, points out that in the 1960s the Episcopal Church had fewer dioceses but now has more dioceses and fewer people.

“That may not be a sustainable model for all of us,” Mayer said, adding that while he is not necessarily advocating combining dioceses, the Church may need to find new ways to share diocesan resources.

“And, in this case, the resource to share would be the bishop,” he said.

Mayer is Fort Worth’s fourth bishop provisional. The first was then-Bishop of Kentucky Edwin F. “Ted” Gulick Jr. He was followed by retired Northwest Texas Bishop C. Wallis Ohl Jr. and then retired Texas Bishop Suffragan Rayford B. High Jr.

Fort Worth has 17 congregations, including a Lutheran congregation pastored by an Episcopal priest. In the time since the split, the diocese has seen a 19.3 percent increase in communicant members and an 11.9 percent increase in operating revenue. Since reorganizing in 2009, Fort Worth has annually paid the full amount asked of it by the Episcopal Church to support the churchwide triennial budget.  It is the only one of six dioceses in the state of Texas to do so.

Transforming the way the Episcopal Church ministers in the 24 counties of north central Texas comes out of necessity, in part, as the Episcopal Church and the diocese seek to recover property and other assets still controlled those who left. The Texas Court of Appeals is considering the case after hearing oral arguments in the case on April 19, 2016.

“It is anticipated, however, that the decision of this court will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court by whichever party the ruling goes against at the Court of Appeals level,” Fort Worth Communication Director Katie Sherrod told Episcopal News Service.

The wider Episcopal Church has supported the diocese’s reinvention. The Executive Council, which has met in the diocese twice since the split, in June offered a combination of a direct grant from the churchwide budget, money raised by the Church’s development office and the presiding bishop, and grants for church planting and mission enterprise zone development through the Resolution 2015-D005 church planting process.

The funding, being matched by the diocese and its congregations, is helping to support clergy who are in charge of fast-growing faith communities.

The 4 Saints Food Pantry, an effort to respond to the needs of and to build relationships with hungry people in a food desert on the east side of Fort Worth, has received a $20,000 Mission Enterprise Zone grant. The ministry will use the money to begin buying equipment required for a licensed food pantry. The pantry will operate out of St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church, Fort Worth. Eventually, it will formally partner with the Tarrant Area Food Bank. St. Luke’s; St. Martin’s, Keller-Southlake; St. Stephen’s, Hurst; and St. Alban’s (worshiping in Theatre Arlington), are the four “saints” partnering in the ministry.

Other grant requests, including one to plant a church on the fast-growing west side of Fort Worth, are in process, in an effort to claim additional funds related to D005, Sherrod said.

In the coming days, Episcopal News Service will feature four of the Diocese of Fort Worth’s resurrection stories.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

California bishops send letter of concern to Trump

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 9:49am

[Episcopal Diocese of California] During the month of December, the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of California, gathered support from all Episcopal bishops in the state of California on a group letter voicing concern over President-elect Trump’s intended appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The bishops also state their continuing support for all people in the United States and call for him to be “a leader for all […] but especially [a] protector for the vulnerable” by reconsidering his cabinet choices. The letter was sent Dec. 29, 2016, to President-elect Trump in hard copy and electronic form. Letter in full included below:

December 29, 2016

Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States of America
Trump Tower
735 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Dear President-elect Trump,

Recently (December 12, 2016) our brother and sister bishops in the Episcopal Church in the State of Massachusetts wrote you to strongly question and oppose your nomination of a climate-change denier to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Like the bishops in Massachusetts, we, the Episcopal bishops in the State of California oversee a body of faithful people who pray for our country’s leadership every Sunday. We have faithfully prayed for President Obama over the last eight years, and we are already naming you to God, for your safety and protection, and for wisdom from God in the leadership of our country and in the councils of the nations of the world. There are 422 Episcopal congregations in the State of California, and they carry you in their prayers to God, as do we.

We join with the Episcopal Bishops of Massachusetts in questioning and challenging your choice for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. The great majority of reputable scientists recognize not only the reality of human-induced climate change, but the looming danger to our children and grandchildren from the worst, unchallenged effects of climate change. We have a slender period of time in which we can, with great concerted effort, and under your leadership, avert the worst consequences of climate change for future generations. We need you and your cabinet to work hard to prevent a bad future for all of the world’s children and all of life on the planet.

We also wish to register with you our strong, continuing and resolute support for the rights and dignity of refugees and immigrants in the United States, for people of all faiths, and especially Muslims and Jews who continue to be the objects of prejudice and hatred, for women, for people of color, indigenous peoples and for those economically disadvantaged. It is our belief that the President of the United States is a leader for all the people of the United States, but especially he or she is protector for the vulnerable. We ask you to re-examine your choices for your cabinet in light of your responsibility to guard the dignity and welfare of all.

Recently we celebrated the birth of Jesus, who has taught us, by his radiant life, how we should live. His life informs our call to you, our President-elect.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Bishop Diocesan of California
The Rt. Rev. Barry L. Beisner, Bishop Diocesan of Northern California
The Rt. Rev. Diane M. Jardine Bruce, Bishop Suffragan of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, Bishop Diocesan of Los Angeles
The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop Diocesan of El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, Bishop Diocesan of San Diego
The Rt. Rev. David C. Rice, Bishop Diocesan of San Joaquin

RIP: Dixie Ann Smith Hutchinson, lay leader

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 9:24am

[Episcopal News Service] Dixie Ann Smith Hutchinson died peacefully Nov. 30, 2016, at her home in Louisville, Colorado. Dixie had been diagnosed with cancer in January of 2016 and was under the care of hospice. Dixie was born in San Jose, California, graduated high school in Newport Beach, attended the University of Colorado, and lived in Dallas, Texas, for 60 years. In 2010 she moved to Louisville where she remained until her death.

Dixie referred to herself a professional volunteer. Her family helped found Episcopal churches in Santa Rosa and Newport Beach, California, After she moved to Dallas, she was active in the diocese as diocesan altar guild directress, served on the Commission on Ministry, Executive Council, Episcopal Church Women’s Board and the Bishop Mason Center Board; three-time General Convention deputy, and two-time alternate. She was privileged to vote for Women’s Ordination to the Priesthood in 1976.  More opportunities to serve followed: Council for the Development of Ministry; Executive Council of the Episcopal Church; the boards of Episcopal Relief and Development, Hispanic Scholarship Trust Fund and Church Deployment; trustee of Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, University of the South and the Church Pension Fund.  In 1985 she was honored by Seabury-Western Theological Seminary with their Distinguished Christian Service Award. She was elected president of the Province of the Southwest of the Episcopal Church, the first layperson to serve in that office.

She was a co-founder and sustainer of AD HOC, a group of laity and clergy formed to help support Bishop Donis D. Patterson (Dallas) in his move toward full inclusion of women in the ordained ministry.  She also convened “Gathering,” a group seeking to serve Christ in all persons and which provided a place to discuss and contemplate the Episcopal Church across the country. Eventually, the group took the name of Via Media Dallas and merged with the church-wide group, Via Media USA.

After moving to Louisville, she attended St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder where she was a lay reader, a lay Eucharistic Minister, and assisted with homeless outreach.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas S. Hutchinson, six months short of their 50th wedding anniversary in 2001. They had two children, Kathy Fox (Steve), and Dixon Hutchinson (Jenny Paddock), three grandchildren, Carter Fox (Rhiannon), Jason Fox (K.D). Fox and two great-grandchildren, Simon and Elliot Fox. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1419 Pine St., Boulder. The Rt. Rev. Sam B Hulsey will preach.

In lieu of flowers, the family will be grateful for memorials to one of the following: St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder, or Planned Parenthood of Boulder, 2525 Arapahoe Ave, Boulder, Colorado, 80302.

Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2017 New Year message

Sun, 01/01/2017 - 3:24pm

Read the transcript of the Archbishop’s message:

Recently I stood in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, which was bombed on 14th November, 1940. On the remains of the wall behind the altar are written the words, ‘Father Forgive’ – echoing the words that Jesus prayed as his enemies crucified him. The day after the bombing, the Provost of the Cathedral, an extraordinary man called Dick Howard, made a commitment not to revenge but to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

On Christmas Day that year, Provost Howard preached a sermon that was broadcast across the Empire on the BBC. In it, he called for a new and more Christ-like world after the war.

I started life as a clergyman here in Coventry. I was ordained in the new Cathedral, which was built alongside the ruins. I never imagined I’d work here, but for five years I helped lead Coventry’s global ministry of reconciliation, which grew out of Dick Howard’s vision and now has 200 partners for peace around the world.

Coventry’s always been a place that has caught my imagination and my passion. The story of this city says so much that is true about Britain at its best. About our courage, our standing up to tyranny, how we stand alongside the suffering and defeated. How we stand for human dignity and hope.

It says something vitally important about our generosity. How we’ve embraced the idea of reconciliation, so that our wartime enemies are now friends. Thanks to our creative, innovative spirit, this vibrant and diverse city is also a hugely welcoming place.

I met Sabir Zazai many years ago and I was delighted to have an opportunity to visit the centre for refugees he now runs. He came as a refugee from Afghanistan in 1999, and his sheer courage and ability are extraordinary. He’s now a key figure in the future of this city.

There are people like Sabir all over the country, and they are a blessing to our way of life. They are embracing all that is good. And that doesn’t just enrich their lives, it enriches and deepens ours too.

Last year we made a decision that will profoundly affect the future of our country – a decision made democratically by the people. The EU referendum was a tough campaign and it has left divisions. But I know that if we look at our roots, our culture and our history in the Christian tradition, if we reach back into what is best in this country, we will find a path towards reconciling the differences that have divided us.

If we’re welcoming to those in need, if we’re generous in giving, if we take hold of our new future with determination and courage, then we will flourish. Living well together despite our differences, offering hospitality to the stranger and those in exile, with unshakable hope for the future – these are the gifts, the commands and the promises of Jesus Christ.

They are also the foundations of our best shared values, traditions and practices in Britain. They make us the country we can be – a gift and source of confidence to this troubled world, in which we live not only for ourselves but as a beacon of hope, a city set on a hill.

I wish you a happy and hope-filled New Year.