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‘Good Omens’: Exploring the spaces between good and evil

By Linda Brooks
Television programs with religious themes or characters seem to be on the upswing. A new six-part mini-series from Amazon Studios and released on Amazon Prime has a pretty broad sweep. “Good Omens” takes on heaven vs. hell and the coming apocalypse as the basis for its story.

Based on the 1990 book “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, “Good Omens” offers a wickedly funny satirical observation of the relationships of angels and demons to their human charges. In the process we learn something about ourselves as well.

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Bishop David Bailey, left, and Bishop Michael Smith participate in the blessing of the Hozho Center. Photo/Dick Snyder Convocation hears about signs of hope in Navajoland

By Dick Snyder
Navajoland gets by with a little help from its friends, Bishop David Bailey explained during the 43rd annual convocation held June 7-9 in Farmington, N.M.

“There are a lot of challenges, mostly economic,” Bailey said in his address. He explained that most of the buildings in Navajoland are old with outdated electrical service, galvanized pipes and leaky roofs. For instance, use of the St. Mary in the Moonlight church in Monument Valley has been suspended because the roof collapsed, he noted.

But there are signs of hope which include a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to make major repairs at Good Shepherd Mission in Fort Defiance, Ariz., and partnerships with other dioceses, parishes and church organizations.

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Key Biscayne police led a “March for Peace” in 2016 with children from the Miami neighborhood of Liberty City. Photo/Leo Quintana

By Bob Libby 
Episcopalians are helping — for the seventh year — to set up a “Christmas in July” event to be held July 15 on the village green in Key Biscayne, Fla., an upscale island community east of Miami, for kids from Liberty City, an inner-city Miami neighborhood that was the scene of deadly riots nearly 40 years ago.

In 90-degree heat, Santa Claus will hand out toys and school supplies, but this Santa is usually played by an officer of the Key Biscayne Police Department. The event is a symbol of an unlikely, but growing, relationship between Liberty City and Key Biscayne, spearheaded by Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press, a member of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Key Biscayne.

Key Biscayne Police Officer Gordon Spitler plays Santa at “Christmas in July” for the youngsters of Liberty City. Photo/Foncham, Warley and Marko

“This is not a church program, but a community wide venture, where many members of our congregation are leaders,” said the Rev. Susan Bruttell, rector of St. Christopher’s.

In 1980, Liberty City and other Miami neighborhoods were the scene of racial unrest following the acquittal of four police officers charged with the death of Arthur Mc Duffie after a motorcycle chase. The rioting resulted in 18 deaths, more than 300 injuries, 600 arrests and $100 million in property destruction.

Interviewed about the riots, the Rev. Ken Majors, who at the time was the rector of Liberty City’s Incarnation Episcopal Church, said, “Our community was in shambles. Blacks felt betrayed by the white establishment. We just didn’t trust one another, but thanks be to God things are better now.”

In 2004, Press established the Chief Press Foundation under the umbrella of the Key Biscayne Foundation “to improve the relationship of police to the children of Liberty City.”

The foundation’s website notes that, “building on Chief Press’ charitable work, in 2013 the Village of Key Biscayne partnered with the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI) to create a sister city partnership with Liberty City.”

The object was two-fold: “1) provide better outcomes for children in underserved communities; and 2) provide opportunities for neighbors of different cultures and socioeconomic levels to learn and care about each other. What is most important here is to understand the dynamic of a very wealthy community partnering with one of South Florida’s most economically deprived areas.”

Another St. Christopher’s member, Pat Molinari, established a fresh vegetable co-op as part of an 18-block community space developed by MCI, where residents can access a food bank, a clothing closet, medical resources, tutoring and parenting classes.

Now retired, Molinari knows food, as she founded Parties-by-Pat, which catered social events on the Key. “I started with a large box of 50 to 60 dollars’ worth of fresh produce and sold them for no more than five dollars. Quite often, cooking lessons followed and in most cases fruit was a new experience,” Molinari said.

Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press has led efforts to link affluent Key Biscayne with inner-city Liberty City. Photo/Leo Quintana

A signature moment occurred five years ago when Press led a “March for Peace” parade of Miami-Dade uniformed police officers around Liberty City with several hundred youngsters holding their hands. A barbecue and games followed.

In another example of the community’s development, Liberty City’s Charles H. Drew K-8 elementary school has moved from an “F” to a triple “B” rating and there are several charter schools being constructed to offer their services to the area’s 2,800 kindergarten to grade 12 students.

John Devaney, a lifelong member of St. Christopher’s and the founder and CEO of United Capital Markets, was instrumental in securing initial funding for Press through the Key Biscayne Foundation, which Devaney helped to establish.

As word of the Liberty City venture got around, support from community groups such as Rotary International grew and in 2013 the relationship received the official endorsement of the Key Biscayne Village Council which declared Liberty City as the “Sister City of Key Biscayne.”

In 2018, Press took eight senior high school students to San Francisco to attend the “My Brother’s Keeper Conference,” designed to encourage young black males to take responsibility for their families and communities.

It was sponsored by the Barack Obama Foundation, and for the Liberty City delegation, it was the first time they had flown on a plane or been out of South Florida. “They came home,” Press said, “with a whole new hopeful vision of their future.”

Also in 2018, a new venture began on the education front when Bill and Toby Rohrer, who were married at St. Christopher’s 25 years ago, committed $200,000 to establish a scholarship program for Liberty City students at Miami Dade Community College.

“There’s still a lot to be done,” reflected Press, “but I do believe we’re beginning to make a difference. In the meantime, Christmas in July is only days away.”

The Rev. Bob Libby, a published author and frequent contributor to Episcopal Journal lives with his wife Lynne on Key Biscayne, Fla.

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Episcopal Journal by Linda Brooks - 6d ago

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Episcopal Journal by Linda Brooks - 1M ago
Book asks ‘who is my neighbor?’

Review by Solange De Santis

Jesus often spoke in parables, reducing complex ideas to straightforward stories that his listeners would understand.

Jennifer Grant’s “Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too,” a large-format book with jaunty illustrations by Benjamin Schipper, follows the same principle.

In Grant’s previous book, “Maybe God Is Like That Too,” a boy notices examples of virtues such as kindness and patience in the city where he lives and thinks, “maybe God is like that too,” concluding that “maybe I can be like that too.”

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Then-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, right, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, then-President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, walk to an ecumenical reception at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. (Photo/ACNS) Archbishop of Canterbury invites ecumenical observers to 2020 Lambeth Conference

From Anglican Communion News Service

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is inviting leaders of other Christian churches to send observers to next year’s Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. Invitations are being extended to a greater number of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches and bodies than at previous Lambeth Conferences. A conference spokesperson said that this was to “recognize their importance in the changing face of world Christianity.”

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Thousands of white paper origami doves suspended from the ceiling at the Church of the Heavenly Rest. (Photo/Pamela A. Lewis)

By Pamela A. Lewis

From Jerusalem to Munich, Salisbury and London, and most recently Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the art installation “Les Colombes” (“Doves”) has been journeying around the globe since 2007. Now in its first East Coast venue, the extraordinary display is on view at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York through August 18.

Michael Pendry, an artist, set designer and actor, created “Les Colombes.” At Heavenly Rest, the installation was created in partnership with Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, an organization that provides college education, life skills, and reentry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women.

Photo/Pamela A. Lewis

Thousands of white origami doves were folded by members of Hudson Link, New York City schoolchildren, Heavenly Rest parishioners and people around the world. The work is intended to bring attention to the issue of mass incarceration in the United States, and also explore what “release” means to individuals in prison or recently released. Those who folded the doves wrote messages of peace, resilience and hope, and their thoughts on the concept of “release.

With its lofty, Gothic-inspired dimensions, the 150-year-old Heavenly Rest’s high-vaulted ceiling is the perfect backdrop against which the paper doves “fly” (suspended by almost invisible cables) above the nave in an entrancing serpentine formation. “The doves create an atmosphere of calmness, gentleness and virtue as they fly through the air in an arrangement which appears to be a loose flock of birds. Folded by so many people, the doves in their unity stand for the right to peace and freedom for all people,” Pendry said.

“Les Colombes” is the culmination of the first year of programming under the new arts initiative at Heavenly Rest that has included group, solo, and collaborative exhibitions, as well as educational and spiritual programming focused on those shows.

For more information, contact Lucas Thorpe, program organizer, at lthorpe@heavenlyrest.org.

Pamela A. Lewis writes about topics of faith. She attends Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City.

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Episcopal Journal by Linda Brooks - 1M ago

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Episcopal Journal by Linda Brooks - 2M ago
Scott Gunn The church is dead. Long live the church!

By Scott Gunn
Several of my church-going friends shared a recent op-ed from Fox News Opinion on their social media, “Church as we know it is over. Here’s what’s next.” The op-ed says that “the church needs to accept the fate of physical church as we know it, so we can move into the next phase of digital church.”

Yes, the old expectations that people will somehow just show up in churches must die. But the replacement is not digital church.

While I love connecting online, it isn’t the same as being part of a gathered community. Church as we know it may be over, but it’s time to reboot church as we know it — and our expectations.

Christians need to go to church. It’s that simple.

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Rooney Mara stars as the title character in the new film “Mary Magdalene” alongside Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. (Photo/courtesy of IFC Films ) In new film, Mary Magdalene is reimagined

By Cathleen Falsani, Religion News Service
Daughter. Sister. Doula. Repairer of nets. Fisher of men (and women). Revolutionary. Believer. Healer. Baptizer. Companion. Witness. Disciple. Apostle to the apostles.

In the new film “Mary Magdalene,” the biblical character Mary of Magdala is all of these things and more — but not the one role in which she was historically (mis)cast: the so-called “fallen woman.”

Misunderstood, misinterpreted, and maligned, only in recent years has Mary Magdalene’s reputation been restored, both by official religious decree and in popular consciousness.

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Director of Photography Nikki Bramley, right, records an interview with the Rev. Marie Moorfield for Director Margo Guernsey’s film on the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. (Photo/courtesy of Margo Guernsey)

By Margo Guernsey

I was born in 1974. I am not Episcopalian. I was raised in a UCC church with a male minister, but knew of plenty of women ministers and never questioned women’s leadership in the church. I’m of the generation that always knew of Episcopal women priests, and did not know the struggle that came before. I always assumed it was the norm.

About seven years ago, I learned about the Episcopal ordinations that took place in Philadelphia in 1974, and was blown away by the bravery of the women involved. At what point did they decide to challenge a venerable institution? How did they consider the risks? The more I have uncovered, the more I respect others who were an important part of the process including the members of the Church of the Advocate (site of the ordinations), the priests who were taken to ecclesiastical trial, and the bishops who ordained them. They jeopardized their careers, their parishes, and their futures, in order to support a group of women who were called to the priesthood.

As a former union organizer, student of the civil rights movement and college history major, I understood these ordinations as a kind of civil disobedience that has been forgotten to history classes and the next generation. I believe they should be a part of our national narrative when we tell the story of twentieth century America. That is why I embarked on a journey to make a feature length documentary film, currently titled “The Philadelphia Eleven: To Be Whole.”

Eleven women kneel at the altar of the Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia, during their ordination on July 29, 1974. (Photo/courtesy Episcopal Church Archives)

This was not a small event. The ordinations in Philadelphia in 1974 rocked Christianity by questioning who speaks the word of God. By celebrating their call to the priesthood, these women suggested that God does not have a gender. The media flocked to the story. Major print and broadcast networks covered it for two years.

We are now in a historical moment where patriarchy, white supremacy, untruthful media, and other oppressive structures are flexing their muscles. For people on the front lines, there is a day-to-day challenge of survival. Within any struggle, there is also opportunity to learn from the leaders who have come before us.

The Philadelphia ordinations confronted patriarchy in new ways, simply by being direct. Male bishops and priests who participated in the civil rights movement, and spoke publicly on behalf of women’s rights, were suddenly forced to examine their own positions in a patriarchal institution.

From left, the Revs. Alison Cheek, Carter Heyward and Jeannette Piccard celebrate a eucharistic service at Riverside Church in New York on Oct. 27, 1974. (Photo/RNS/Chris Sheridan)

The ordinations upend generally held assumptions about civil rights and gender. In the 1970s, most leaders of the women’s movement supported white women’s issues at the expense of women of color, and low-income women. Black male civil rights leaders tended to focus only on race, and not on other forms of oppression. Yet there was an intersectional element to these ordinations. Eleven white women were ordained in a black city church, under the leadership of an African-American rector who was actively supportive of the Black Panther Party. An African-American woman led the procession, and would later become the first woman ordained a bishop in the Anglican Communion. A number of the women ordained identified as queer. They did not feel safe making that public; yet the white male bishops ordaining were prepared to defend them if anyone were to raise the issue publicly.

What can we learn from this intersectional challenge to a patriarchal system? I do not think there is ever one clear answer; but there is a lot to contemplate. I strive to make a film that will inspire viewers to go beyond first impressions to a deeper discussion.

The women ordained in 1974 and 1975 stayed true to their call to the priesthood despite institutional obstacles, and by doing so they challenge us to look at our own lives. How do we pursue our vocations regardless of whether society is ready? How do we keep our integrity when it feels like the easy answers ask us to compromise? How do we stand up for justice in every moment when life pulls us in so many different directions? I can imagine post-film discussions where we all reflect on how the story of the original women priests asks us to consider big questions that confront us in our own lives.

In 2015, I, along with my friend and fellow filmmaker Nikki Bramley, started filming the women ordained “irregularly,” because we did not want to lose the opportunity for the women to tell their own stories. The generation that lived through the irregular ordinations have a personal connection that only they can relate. I recognize how different that experience is from my own. I find I am at my best as a director when I am listening and allowing the protagonists of the story to lead. We need to finish filming while we still have the first women priests with us.

Margo Guernsey is a documentary filmmaker based in Boston, Mass. For more information about “The Philadelphia Eleven,” go to TimeTravelProductions.com.

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Episcopal Journal by Linda Brooks - 2M ago

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Episcopal Journal by Linda Brooks - 4M ago
The Rothko Chapel in Houston features large paintings with subtle nuances of black. Photo/Runaway Productions Rothko’s stark vision graces Houston chapel
By Dennis RavertyUpon entering the Rothko Chapel in Houston, one is immediately aware of a quiet, contemplative ambience unlike either the noisy city outside or the typical atmosphere in a gallery or a museum, where paintings by the mid-century abstract artist Marc Rothko (1908-70) are more likely to be seen. Dimly lit by a concealed skylight and entirely without windows, the space has the hushed air of a sanctuary. It is only after your eyes have adjusted to the lower level of light that you notice the huge monolithic black paintings that dominate every wall of this octagonal space.

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Heiress saved Jewish children in Nazi-occupied France
Reviewed by Rick HamlinSuzanne Spaak would seem to have unlikely makings for a saint. She was a rich Belgian heiress living in occupied Paris during World War II in a sumptuous Palais Royale apartment (upstairs from the writer Colette) that was filled with paintings by her friend the surrealist Magritte. Spaak raised her son and teenaged daughter—the latter a possible inspiration for Colette’s Gigi—with little financial help from her bounder of a husband, as all the while she was rescuing hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis.

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