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Diocese of Chile takes step towards becoming the Anglican Communion’s 40th province

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 11:02am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Diocese of Chile in the Anglican Church of South America could become its own autonomous province of the Anglican Communion by the end of 2018. An extraordinary Synod of the diocese will be held later this month to confirm a resolution that was ratified by the Synod when it met in Temuco in 2015. Nearly 100 representatives from across Chile will gather in Santiago on May 12, to agree proposals for the creation of what will become new dioceses in the independent province, and elect the people who will become its first bishops and primate.

Read the entire article here.

The Rev. Canon Kevin Nichols elected bishop of Bethlehem

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 10:36am

[Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem] The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, which encompasses northeastern Pennsylvania, has elected the Rev. Canon Kevin D. Nichols, 56, as its next bishop.

Nichols, who is currently, chief operating officer and canon for mission resources in the Diocese of New Hampshire, was elected on the first ballot by the clergy of the diocese and elected lay representatives during a meeting in the Cathedral Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

“I am thrilled to be joining with the people of the Diocese of Bethlehem to bear witness to the power of the Resurrection in their communities,” Nichols said. “The momentum there is unmistakable and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us together.

“I see this as a moment for us as a church to recover our purpose for why we are here, to reconcile and to offer God’s love and healing where there has been painful damage. The Diocese of Bethlehem in its diverse landscapes is rich and fertile ground for God’s planting and pruning.”

Nichols was formerly president of the Diocese of New Hampshire’s Standing Committee and a member of the churchwide Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church.

A former Roman Catholic priest who received his master of divinity degree from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, he was received into the Episcopal priesthood in 1999 and has served as rector of St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield, New Hampshire and St. Andrew’s in Hopkinton, New Hampshire.

While serving small parishes, Nichols also worked as an account manager and management trainer for Sealed Air Corporation, a packaging company.

“I really like how naturally Kevin integrates his faith and spirituality into his everyday life,” said the Rev. J. Douglas Moyer, president of the Bethlehem diocesan standing committee. “To me it is apparent that he is a very spiritual person, close to God and will make a wonderful pastor. He doesn’t talk about I, he talks about “we, we, we.” And we are ready to do this together.”

The Rt. Rev. Sean W. Rowe, bishop of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, served Bethlehem as provisional bishop for four years while the diocese determined its future.

“This diocese is so ready to take the next step, and we were not four years ago,” Moyer said. “And we are so excited about where we are headed.”

The bishop-elect’s wife, Patti, is a licensed clinical social worker. They have four adult children: Graham, Lindsay, Bryan and Keaton, and three grandchildren.

Pending consents from the wider Episcopal Church, Nichols will be ordained as bishop on Sept. 15 at First Presbyterian Church 3231 W. Tilghman Street in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The Diocese of Bethlehem includes almost 12,000 members in 58 congregations in northeastern Pennsylvania.

‘Welcome Movement’ calls on Christian families to show love to Chile’s most vulnerable children

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 4:38pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Churches in Chile are working together to create a network of host families to help provide shelter for vulnerable children. The Welcome Movement, which is supported by the Diocese of Chile, part of the Anglican Church of South America, held a conference in April as they sought to recruit “Families of Specialized Shelters.” The overarching message from the conference was that “it is time we loved, not only in words, but with concrete actions for our children.”

Read the entire article here.

Police officer-turned-antiques dealer discovers heart for prison ministry

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 3:00pm

Antiques dealer Jon Felz, center, appraises an icon for Joanne and Sal Torrisi during an April 21 fundraiser for Diocese of Newark Prison Ministry programs, held at St. James Episcopal Church in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Photo: Sharon Sheridan

[Episcopal News Service] For 20 years, Jon Felz helped send people to prison as a New York police officer. Today, he’s volunteering his time to help those behind bars as a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark’s Prison Ministry.

“I have over 1,200 felony arrests,” he said. “But when you lock somebody up, you spend three hours with them processing them, and then you rarely see them again unless the case goes to trial. Ninety percent of the cases don’t go to trial. You don’t get to focus on them as human beings.”

But Felz’s faith journey has lent him new perspective and purpose. Now an antiques dealer and certified appraiser, Felz led an “Antiques Roadshow”-style event on April 21 at the Episcopal Church of St. James in Upper Montclair, New Jersey, to raise money for the diocese’s programs for inmates and their families. Looking ahead, he hopes to join ministry members in leading Bible studies for inmates.

“When God opens your heart, you really take this stuff to heart,” he said.

Jon Felz in his New York Police Department days.

Felz, 60, began his New York police career during the “drug wars” of the 1980s. At age 22, he was assigned to Washington Heights, which set a precinct record with 137 homicides in 1984. During his career, he survived three gun battles and engaged in New York-to-New Jersey car chases to arrest suspected drug dealers.

“As I got older, I started to study the Bible – first from a historical point of view, because I love history,” said Felz, the son of an antiques dealer. His retirement from police work to enter the antiques business in 2001 gave him more time to reflect. “The years went by, my faith started to get stronger.”

A lifelong member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Montvale, New Jersey, Felz began bringing donated pastries each Sunday to the men’s shelter located at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Paterson. Then he began bringing men’s clothing and toiletries from estate sales he ran and donations from members of his church. He started to get to know the shelter’s men, some of them just out of prison.

“I saw that even [with] the toughest ex-con … there is a bond,” Felz said. “When I go there Sunday, they know my name.”

He began thinking about the circumstances that led people to commit crimes. “I’m not making excuses for them,” he said, but “I look at them as victims.”

Reflecting on the people he’d helped lock up, he said, “I felt that I didn’t help anyone. These are human beings. They’re not just numbers.”

And when he heard about the diocesan prison ministry, he thought: “Maybe I could go in and give hope.”

John Felz says people in prison “are not just numbers.” Photo: Sharon Sheridan

He wants to join diocese members who lead Bible studies in the state prison in Newark and in jails in Hudson and Essex counties. First, however, he will need to complete the institutions’ required paperwork and background checks.

For more than three decades, the diocese also has supported children and their incarcerated parents through the PATCH (Parents and Their Children) program. PATCH transports children for monthly visits with their parents at the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark and provides camp scholarships, school supplies and annual Christmas parties for the children. PATCH previously included a mentoring component for children, which the diocesan prison ministry would like to restart.

Other programs include a pen-pal program and a holiday choir that leads a carol service at a county jail.

The ministry makes PATCH a priority because “our children are an at-risk population for prison, mental health issues, dropping out of school,” said the Rev. Pamela Bakal, prison ministry president and rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Nutley. The program costs more than $22,000 annually because of transportation, insurance and other costs – a funding need that prompted Felz to donate his antique-appraisal skills for the April 21 event.

Jon Felz, far left, poses with other police officers in New York in 1998. Felz served 20 years as a police officer but says he now is called to try to help inmates as a volunteer with the Diocese of Newark Prison Ministry. Photo courtesy of Jon Felz

His police days showed him the impoverished circumstances that led some into lives of crime.

“When these young guys are in the street … if you’re getting high every day or drunk … you’re not thinking straight, and you’re going to do stupid things,” he said. “The sad thing is, a lot of these guys do such stupid things, their life is over. If someone could tell them that their life isn’t over, that there is a God … that loves them, that cares about them.”

“It has nothing to do with liberal or conservative,” he adds. “Some poor kids have nothing. … It’s not a political issue. It’s a human being issue. Now it becomes our job to show them the love that they never had.”

— Sharon Sheridan is a postulant in the Diocese of Newark and a member of the Diocese of Newark Prison Ministry.

More landmark churches charging admission fees during week while keeping worship free

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:48pm

Visitors tour Boston’s Old North Church, which soon will begin charging tourists up to $8 a person for admission. Photo: Old North Church

[Episcopal News Service] Planning for a half million people a year to step foot in your church may seem like a rector’s foolish pipe dream. In reality, though, Old North Church is one of Boston’s most popular tourist destinations, and it doesn’t maintain itself.

“That’s a lot of wear and tear on the building,” the Rev. Stephen Ayers said. His church, while remaining free for all who come to worship and pray, soon will begin charging admission to most of its hundreds of thousands of annual visitors. “We’ve managed as long as we can by cutting corners, but that’s not enough to keep the place going.”

Boston is a city steeped in Revolutionary War history, and Old North Church is one of its most treasured historical landmarks. Its stature stems from its pivotal role in Paul Revere’s famous ride on April 18, 1775, as the site of a poetic advance in lantern-based messaging – “One if by land, and two if by sea.”

Old North Church, 243 years later, is still home to a small but active Episcopal congregation. Its list of Christian ministries ranges from Bible studies to a feeding program, but historic preservation isn’t a central theme. “We want the congregation to have its own identity,” Ayers said, though there’s no denying that Old North Church’s connection to the past puts it in rare company. “It’s a pretty small group of churches that find themselves as being historical attractions as well.”

A guide leads tourists on a tour of Old North Church, which is both a popular historic site and an active Episcopal congregation. Photo: Old North Church

Landmark Episcopal churches make up an even smaller group, and some already have set up ticket counters for the paying public. Trinity Church in Boston, popular for its architecture, art and central location on Copley Square, has charged admission for more than a decade, except on Sunday mornings and other worship times.

“A lot goes into greeting the public and welcoming them,” said the Rev. Patrick C. Ward, associate rector at Trinity Boston. The costs of maintaining the building add up, and “the only people taking care of it are the people in the parish.”

In New York, Trinity Church Wall Street, a wealthy congregation founded in 1697, keeps its historic church, cemetery and nearby St. Paul’s Chapel open to the public for free, while Cathedral of St. John the Divine created a $10 admission fee in September. It had promoted a suggested donation for decades and also charges for guided tours of the 125-year-old building, one of the world’s largest cathedrals.

“We do not, nor will ever require a fee from anyone coming here for private prayer, attending a worship service or seeking respite or sanctuary,” Isadora Wilkenfeld, St. John the Divine’s programing and communications manager, said in an email. “However, we’ve always relied on the contributions of visitors, supporters and the wider community as a major source of revenue.”

St. John the Divine, through a long period of research and discussion, found that an admission fee was in line with the policies at other cathedrals in the United States and Europe, including Washington National Cathedral, which began charging tourists and sightseers $12 each in 2014.

If you cringe at the notion of making anyone pay to enter a house of worship, consider what it takes for that small group of landmark churches to invite the public inside on days of the week when many other churches around the country are closed to the public.

“We wouldn’t be able to keep our doors open on a daily basis if it weren’t for people paying a nominal fee,” said Patricia Hurley, Trinity Boston’s director of communications. The church’s $7 fee helps cover the estimated $35,000 a week it costs to keep the lights on and staff the building during the week, including security.

The congregation is much larger than Old North Church – about 750 people attend the five Sunday services at Trinity – and though lacking Old North’s historical pedigree, it still draws up to 100,000 visitors a year. Trinity is known as one of the most significant buildings in the country because it represents the birth of a now commonplace architectural style, Richardsonian Romanesque, pioneered by H.H. Richardson.

“It’s not merely about surface prettiness. Beauty draws us out of ourselves,” Ward said, noting the connection between art and spirituality. “People coming into it from all faiths, or no faith, will say things to me like, ‘I feel embraced by this building.’”

And if faith has called someone to a church, whether the building is historic or not, church leaders are committed to removing financial barriers to entry.

“Sundays and worship services are always free, as is private prayer,” said Kevin Eckstrom, communications officer at Washington National Cathedral. “If someone comes to the front desk and says they want to light a candle or say a prayer, they can come in.”

National Cathedral draws about 275,000 visitors a year, typically attracted by its historical connection to the nation’s capital, its Gothic architecture and its spiritual significance as “a place where people can encounter the sacred in a very secular city,” Eckstrom said.

It costs an estimated $40,000 a day to keep the building open and running. After an initial adjustment period, Eckstrom said, visitors have grown accustomed to paying the admission fee, which includes a half-hour, docent-led tour of the facility.

“Part of our mission is to open the space to whoever wants to come in and hopefully have a transcendent experience that you would not get in any other place in the nation’s capital,” he said.

And whether it’s a quarter million people visiting National Cathedral or a half million people visiting Old North Church, those kinds of numbers are “great problem to have,” he said.

Old North Church is one of the most popular tourist stops in Boston because of the two lanterns hung in its town signaling that British were advancing by sea on April 18, 1775. Photo: Old North Church

Old North Church plans to launch its new fee policy as soon as its ticket booths arrive, possibly this month.

“We’ve done a good bit of local PR about it. Most of the response has been good,” said Ayers, whose congregation typically numbers 80 to 90 people at Old North’s two Sunday services.

Adult visitors will pay $8, with discounts for military members, seniors and students. Kids under 5 will still get in free, as will anyone who lives in Boston.

The historic site is set up as a separate nonprofit organization, with support from the Episcopal congregation, and during the height of the summer tourist season, Old North Church has about 50 people on its staff catering to visitors. Many of them are graduate students studying history who spend the season as educators or first-person interpreters dressed in Colonial costumes.

Old North Church prides itself on offering a comprehensive experience detailing Colonial life, Revolutionary War history and even 18th century chocolate making. “It’s not just come and recite ‘one if by land and two if by sea’ and leave,” Ayers said. “Freedom was not just kicking the British out of North America.”

If there has been any objection to the new fee, it’s come from the tourism companies that now will have to pay to stop at Old North Church on their bus tours and cruises. Ayers doesn’t expect them to change course. Old North conducted a study that concluded an admission fee would not dramatically decrease the number of annual visits.

If you only have time for a few stops while visiting Boston, “you’re going to pick the ones on your bucket list,” he said. “The Old North is on everybody’s bucket list.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Informal group of Anglican – Roman Catholic theologians discusses ‘new layers of unity’

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:38am

[Anglican Communion News Service] An informal but officially-sanctioned ecumenical dialogue between Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians has met to consider “the difficult question of Anglican orders.” The Malines Conversation Group was originally established in the early 1920s by Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Malines-Brussels; some 24 years after Pope Leo XIII declared that Anglican orders (the ordination of men and women in the Anglican Communion) were “absolutely null and utterly void.” The 1920s Malines Conversations Group envisioned the restoration of communion between Anglicans and Roman Catholics in the phrase l’Église Anglicane unie non absorbée – united, but not absorbed.

The group’s communique, along with commentary by Church of England Diocese of Europ Bishop David Hamid, is here.

Read the entire article here.

Three-fold increase in young people on Church of England ministry-discernment placements

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:31am

[Anglican Communion News Service] A record number of people are taking part in a Church of England scheme which provides a practical year in a parish to young people considering a call to ministry. The Ministry Experience Scheme is a nationwide initiative which developed from ad-hoc programs run by individual parishes and dioceses. It offers young people, aged between 18 and 30, the opportunity to spend a year working in a parish alongside a vicar in what some have dubbed “apprentice vicar” posts.

Read the entire article here.

R.I.P.: Bishop Emilio Hernández of Cuba

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 3:15pm

[Diocese of Southeast Florida] A faithful servant and devoted bishop has passed from us. Bishop Emilio Hernández of Cuba died on April 19. He served the church bravely and sacrificially during a turbulent and costly era of his country’s history. His commitment to the Gospel was indeed unwavering.

We are pleased to offer this tribute, which includes a brief biography written by the Rev. Alejandro Hernández, one of Bishop Emilio’s children and rector of Todos Los Santos, Miami.

May Bishop Emilio rest in peace and rise in glory.

Bishop Emilio Joaquín Hernández Albalate was born in the city of Morón, province of Camagüey Cuba, on Dec. 7, 1925. He was a restless lover of justice from a very young age. His mother shared that she once discovered a steak hidden in his pocket. He had planned to offer it to his Afro-Cuban friend Chorizo, who was poor.

As a teenager, he was once walking with a friend when they met a beggar on the road. His friend began to push and mock the beggar. Emilio struck his friend to stop him. When his friend asked why he had hit him, he replied, “do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.”

All that said, Bishop Emilio was not perfect, just as no one is. He never believed himself to be perfect because he knew that he would be deceiving himself and not living in the truth.

Thanks to his mentor, teacher, and pastor, the Rev. Moreno, he discovered very early in life that he was radically loved by God. Convinced of God’s unconditional love for humanity and the need to proclaim this good news, young Emilio began to feel God’s call to ordained ministry. At the time however, his parents wanted him to become a physician. Desiring to please his parents, he entered the University of Havana to study medicine. The call continued tugging at his heart until, in his third year of medical school, he left and was soon admitted to the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas.

At the time he left medical school, he was already dating Edivia Hilaria Mesa Miranda. She was a beautiful young woman. He met her at Trinity Church in Morón. Edivia had captivated him not only by her beauty, but for her fighting spirit. The couple got married, and Edivia left everything to follow her husband to the seminary and to begin a new life in the service of God.

Emilio and his wife had three children, Mayra Sara, Leonel Emilio and Alejandro Félix Hernández. After finishing his theological studies, Emilio was sent by Bishop Alexander Hugo Blankingship to pastor a small church in Florencia, Camagüey. He would travel through the fields on horseback to visit the farmers. He baptized hundreds in that community alone.

In Florencia, the Rev. Emilio, strengthened his connection with the July 26 Movement, which he had joined while in seminary with the ideal of ending the prevailing government corruption and restoring constitutionality to the nation of Cuba.

With the triumph of the rebels, the Rev. Emilio would begin a new phase of his life. After rejecting an offer by the mayor of the city of Morón, in order to continue proclaiming the Gospel, he was sent, by Bishop José Agustín González, to the cities of Santiago de Cuba and Palma Soriano to pastor the churches and colleges of both cities.

Shortly after the family had settled in the city of Santiago de Cuba, the Rev. Emilio, outraged by the Castro brothers’ betrayal of the principles of the July 26 Movement and the surrender of the country to international communism, joined the Revolutionary Movement of the People. He was betrayed by one of the members of his group and was arrested, imprisoned and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He might have been pardoned if he had just excepted the rehabilitation plan that required him to renounce his principles, but Rev. Emilio served the entire sentence as a form of protest.

While in prison the Rev. Emilio continued to preach the Gospel. There he gathered an ecumenical fellowship that included Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other Christians. His wife carefully passed him a Book of Common Prayer by using the BCP’s pages to wrap the food that she would deliver to him in prison on her visits.

After serving his sentence, although he would have been allowed to leave the country for the United States, he preferred to remain in Cuba and continue his pastoral ministry in the Episcopal Church.

He was soon sent to the city of Cárdenas to tend to the parishes in that city and the cities of Coliseo, Limonar and Itabo. He was later appointed by Bishop José Agustín González as archdeacon of the province of Matanzas and professor of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology.

With the announcement of the retirement of the Diocesan Bishop, the Venerable Emilio, along with the Venerable Juan Ramón de Paz and Prospero Mesa, became nominees at the synod that would elect the new bishop of the Diocese of Cuba. Venerable Emilio was elected bishop coadjutor of Cuba in 1980 and was consecrated as diocesan bishop in 1982.

The bishopric of the illustrious Emilio, which lasted a little more than a decade, was characterized by its simplicity and solidarity, and by its sensitivity to the problems and anxieties of clergy and lay people alike. His legacy also included the fruit of his substantial ecclesial work in the total renewal of the life of the Diocese.

Among his achievements:

  • The Cuban Mass sung poetically and with deeply native criolla tonalities.
  • The ordination of the first women to the diaconate and presbyterate in 1986.
  • The creation of a solid relationship named Fellowship in Mission with the Diocese of Jacksonville, Florida, which ended the isolation of the Cuban Episcopal Church.
  • The creation of the New Ministries movement and the ordination of worker-ministers who would no longer be obligated give up their secular work, in order to train as clergy for the church.
  • The revitalization of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzas and the long-needed commitment to supplying new professors and students.

After his retirement, Bishop Emilio and his wife resided in Havana for a time. They would later move to the United States to be with their children, who resided in Miami, Dade County and Broward County. Bishop Emilio had been widowed a few years at the time of his death. He lived with his daughter Mayra in Coral Springs.

The Acts of the Apostles, referring to King David, says: “dFor David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died.” To paraphrase this quote, we could say: “Bishop Emilio, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, died.”

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, by the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Korea agreement described as ‘beginning of a new history of reconciliation and peace’

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 12:27pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A national ecumenical body which includes the Anglican Church of Korea has welcomed the April 27 historic agreement between the leaders of North and South Korea. The Panmunjom Agreement was signed at the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit by the Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. Amongst a range of peace-building initiatives, the Panmunjom Agreement includes a commitment to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

Read the entire article here.

Zambian President calls for church to ‘Christianize the nation’s politics’

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 12:23pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The president of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, has called for the church to “Christianize the nation’s politics”, as he expressed his hopes for a violence-free campaign for a parliamentary by-election next month.  Lungu made his remarks at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, at a service to mark the 40th anniversary of a companion link between the Church of England’s Diocese of Bath and Wells, and the Church of the Province of Central Africa’s five dioceses in Zambia. The by-election to return a new member of Parliament for the Chilanga Constituency is set to be held on June 5.  Lungu expressed his fear that the campaign may turn violent, despite the nation self-describing itself as a Christian country.

Read the entire article here.