Local Lay Chaplains Realize the Harvest is Plentiful

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Since May is National Mental Health Month, two of us would like to share one of the ways our local mental health court helps folks with mental health issues to lead productive lives outside of the criminal justice system. Our perspectives come from a judge who presides over this accountability court and an ecumenical chaplain involved from the start of this initiative.  After watching a number of people over the years struggle with physical health in the HELP  (Health, Empowerment, Linkage and Possibilities) Court, as well as weight gain due to medications, I, as the judge,  turned to the community for help.  A group of parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church who belong to the Community of Hope, an organization of lay chaplains, took on the challenge. They invited participants in HELP Court to walk a mile around the Brenau campus with them and then have lunch together.

The church volunteers initially set specific agendas for the lunch time together. These “Lunch and Learns,” which touched on different aspects of daily living such as healthy eating, exercise, or punctuality, seemed to send a message that the volunteers became uncomfortable with: that they were somehow the teacher and that what this opportunity had to offer was for the benefit of the participant alone. Soon, I, as the chaplain, saw that what the participants could teach us, the volunteers, about being honest and real and offering completely differing perspectives was a gift to us that transformed our view of empathy, compassion, and service. We could see that true connections were being made by everyone who gathered, and that it was time to put the “learning” component of lunch aside and just talk.

As the activity evolved, I, as the judge, heard praise, both from the volunteers and from the participants.  I realized that this effort was helping to address one of the most serious barriers to the continued stability of the participants.  That barrier is the STIGMA our culture attaches to people with mental health issues.  The most poignant example of this stigma is one I heard very early on in the court.  Participants in HELP Court must attend a number of meetings—group therapy, individual counseling, drug testing, and others.  This means they must discuss their situation with their employers in order to be available.  There are a number of wonderful businesses in our community that are willing to work with their employees to ensure their success in the program.  But some are not so understanding.  I asked one of our early participants if he had spoken with his employer about coming to groups and he said he was not able to be truly honest.  He said that if he had explained he was going to therapy to learn about his diagnosis of bi-polar and skills to help him be successful in society, he would have been ridiculed, called crazy, and possibly let go. So he had told his boss that he was attending classes for perpetrators of domestic violence, which was accepted without disapproval.  

The interactions between church members and court participants, in a setting that is not court, not therapy, and not mandated, give each side the freedom to see each other as just people, with struggles and triumphs in daily life, like we all have.  And those volunteers spread their greater understanding of people with mental health issues among their wider group of friends and acquaintances. At the same time, court participants have pleasant interactions with caring people other than the “caring professionals” they are required to see.  

The experience is so simple but so meaningful. In putting the person before the label and acquiring a deeper, truer understanding of the complexities of mental health, volunteers helped participants to feel like people instead of marked, locked boxes. This gave them the confidence to speak their truths about their struggles and successes, which helped the volunteers see the commonalities of living life in a world where there is hardship. No matter who you are or what you’re labeled, you will at some point be forced to confront that. When a participant approached the volunteer privately and offered her advice about how to be a better parent, she realized that the labels associated with mental illness are true detriments to making real connections with each other.

This type of coming together is crucial for everyone, not just those seeking rehabilitative assistance. Changing our misconceptions into experiences of compassion is the way into understanding. And perhaps after we understand, we change the face of mental health and how we deal with the locked boxes both in ourselves and in others.
The program has been so successful that the Community of Hope is working to replicate this component of HELP Court in other counties.

Kathy Gosselin is a Superior Court Judge presiding over the mental health court and veteran’s court in the Northeastern Judicial Circuit.  Laura Masterson is a certified lay chaplain through The Community of Hope, International. Nancy Richardson is the coordinator for the Walk and Talk component of the HELP court.


Malachi's Storehouse Receives Generous Grant from ECF

Malachi’s Storehouse, emergency food pantry located at St. Patrick’s in Dunwoody, is excited to announce that they are the recipient of a grant from Episcopal Community Foundation of Middle and North Georgia (ECF) of $10,400! This grant will be used to purchase protein for their food pantry from the Atlanta Community Food Bank for the period of 1 year.

Why is this important?

“More than 25 percent of Georgia children face food insecurity, and Georgia is seventh in the nation for senior citizens facing hunger,” according to Lindsey Hardegree, Executive Director of Episcopal Community Foundation of Middle and North Georgia. With this grant, Malachi’s will be able to purchase (primarily) chicken to provide a consistent source of protein to our clients every week.

Malachi’s Storehouse is an outreach ministry of St. Patrick’s and is open every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm, providing a hot lunch, groceries, and clothing to anyone in need. Malachi’s is an integral part of the life of the parish at St. Patrick’s where parishioners have supported the food pantry for 25 years! Visit our website at malachisstorehouse.org.

Malachi’s board, volunteers and clients wish to thank ECF for the generous grant, which will help improve the lives of those they serve!


St. Aidan's Acolyte Recognition Sunday

This is the third year that the acolyte parents have switched places with their children on Acolyte Sunday..officially making this a St. Aidan's tradition

On Sunday, May 7th St. Aidan's celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Acolyte Recognition Sunday.  It is a day to honor all of the children that serve in their acolyte ministry with special honors awarded to children reaching the five year service milestone and to those being promoted to Master Acolyte.

There are currently 57 active youth acolytes that serve at St. Aidan's. But almost all of them get a break on Acolyte Sunday turning their jobs over to their parents. It's a chance for many of the parents to serve as acolytes for the first time in their lives and for other to resume duties well recalled from their childhood acolyte days. More than 25 acolyte parents - and even one grandparent - served as crucifers, torch bearers, Gospel Book and banner bearers, altar servers and bell ringers having been taught the intricacies of these responsibilities by the children. 


ECF Grants $7,000 in Small Acts of Charity Grants for First Quarter

Today the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia (ECF) announces its first two Small Acts of Charity grants to Cherokee Asset Learning for Leadership (CALL) in Macon and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church (Decatur).

“ECF has shifted its grant-making focus to encourage larger, more impactful grants; however, we also acknowledge that sometimes smaller funding requests are needed to continue our work building the Beloved Community,” said Lindsey Hardegree, Executive Director for the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia. “Our Small Acts of Charity are granted to one or two applicants each quarter; this allows us to preserve ECF’s primary funding for impactful partnerships while still providing an opportunity for smaller requests to be considered.”

ECF’s Q1 Small Acts of Charity 2017 recipients:

• Cherokee Asset Learning for Leadership (CALL) will receive a grant of $3,500 to fund an Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) process for the Cherokee Heights Historic District in Macon.  ABCD focuses on the existing resources and capacity within a community to address the needs of that specific community, and CALL will be researching how the assets in and around Cherokee Heights might be best utilized for mission and outreach to the poor and oppressed in the area formerly occupied by St. James Episcopal Church (Macon).

• St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church (Decatur) will receive a grant of $3,500 towards renovating its kitchen space as a part of the expansion of their food pantry ministry to enable hot meal service. In the seven years since its founding, the St. Timothy’s Food Pantry Program has seen a more than 300% increase in the amount of food distributed to families in need, and has determined that expanding its services to also include hot nutritious breakfasts will fill an unmet need in the community. Kitchen renovations will allow for 840 hot meals to be served per year to the participants in the Food Pantry Program, as well as 120 meals per year to the nearby residents of Hagar’s House Emergency Shelter.

About ECF’s Grant Programs:
ECF awards General Grants twice a year and Small Acts of Charity (capped at $5,000) quarterly. Applications for the Q2 Small Acts of Charity are due May 15, 2017. Those interested in applying for funding should visit http://ecfatlanta.org/grants for information regarding both funding opportunities as well as links to the applications. Applicants are encouraged to contact Lindsey Hardegree with any questions they may have regarding eligibility or their applications.


Canon for Mission Outside the Episcopal Church to preach

The Rev. Canon Charles K. Robertson, Ph.D., Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Mission Outside the Episcopal Church, headquartered in New York City, is the featured speaker May 28 on “Day 1” with host Peter Wallace, the nationally broadcast ecumenical radio program also accessible online at Day1.org. 

Robertson has served in a variety of roles in the church. Before coming to church headquarters in New York City he was Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Arizona, and earlier served as a parish priest. He is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York and formerly taught at Virginia Theological Seminary.  

A graduate of Virginia Tech, Robertson earned a master of divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Durham University in the United Kingdom.  He is the author of several books. “Why Go to Church?” is coming out this fall. 

“Power to Press On,” Robertson’s sermon for May 23, is based on the account of the Ascension found in Acts 1:6-14. “Life often may not be smooth, or fair, or prosperous,” he says. “We may very well find ourselves straining our gaze heavenward, wondering where God is, when is the time when it all gets easier.” 

The program includes interviews with Robertson conducted by Wallace, who is also executive producer. 

News from “Day 1”® 
The national weekly ecumenical radio program produced by the Alliance for Christian Media
Contact: Peter Wallace, 404-815-0258pwallace@day1.org
Or Ethel Ware Carter, 404-418-6770ewcarter@day1.org 

“Day 1” has been broadcast every week for 72 years, formerly as “The Protestant Hour.” Featuring outstanding preachers from the mainline denominations, “Day 1” is currently distributed to more than 200 radio stations across America and overseas. The program is produced by the Alliance for Christian Media, based in Atlanta, Ga. For more information, call toll free 888-411-Day-1 or check the program’s website, http://day1.org.  


GREG COLE NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF EMMAUS HOUSE

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The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright are pleased to announce that Greg Cole has been named the new executive director of Emmaus House in Atlanta. Emmaus House is a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta that provides vital support, education, and services to residents in the Peoplestown community.

Cole previously held the title of deputy director following the departure of former Emmaus House Executive Director Joseph Mole in December. Cole joined the staff of Emmaus House in 2013 as director of development and communications.

“I am honored to serve Emmaus House as we move into our next 50 years,” Cole said. “As we have for the last 50, we will continue to advocate for those in our community whose voices are not heard.”

The Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, is looking forward to the future of Emmaus House with Cole as executive director. “We are delighted that Greg will lead Emmaus House at this important time,” the Rev. Wright said. “He has the heart of a servant, the mind of a leader, and is on fire for this work. Emmaus House and the Peoplestown community will be well served by Greg’s leadership.”

Cole received a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and earned a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of North Florida. He has also worked with the Episcopal Church in a variety of capacities, including as a stewardship consultant to the national church.

Before his tenure at Emmaus House, Cole served as director of development for Habitat For Humanity in Jacksonville, Florida. While there, he developed a strong interest in community development as it pertains to poverty reduction, he said.

Since adding Cole to its staff four years ago as director of development and communications, Emmaus House has almost doubled the financial support that it receives, allowing it to dramatically increase its programs and its effectiveness in the neighborhoods it serves. Now as executive director, Cole will lead the organization in its continued efforts to support the residents of Peoplestown as they work toward economic security.

“During this time of community change, we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive in Peoplestown and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Cole said. “I’m thrilled to work at an organization that’s dedicated to making measurable, systemic change that results in transformed lives.”


Diocese of Atlanta Communications and Design Honored by Multiple Organizations

The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta has been recognized for its communications, marketing, and design efforts from four professional organizations, including Episcopal Communicators, the Religion Communicators Council,  the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association, and the Hermes Creative Awards.

At this year’s Polly Bond Awards for Excellence in Communication held in Cincinnati, Ohio in April, Episcopal Communicators presented our diocese with eight Polly Bond Awards including four awards of excellence, two awards of merit, and two honorable mentions. Pathways Magazine, an annual publication from the diocese, received awards for feature writing, photography, and visual layout for its story on Bearings Bike Shop. The diocese’s email newsletter, Connecting, received an award of excellence for Best Digital Periodical.

The social media efforts of the diocese were also recognized at this year’s Polly Bond Awards. The diocese earned awards of excellence for its Facebook post related to suicide prevention, Instagram post featuring one of Bishop Wright’s weekly For Faiths, and for Integrated Social Media Presence.

Both Pathways and Connecting, the news and events website of the diocese, were created by Green Gate Marketing, an Atlanta-based marketing agency the diocese partnered with in 2016 to revitalize its marketing and communications strategy. Green Gate also manages the social media and web presence of the diocese.   
 
“This recognition from Episcopal Communicators is a wonderful honor for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta,” the Rev. Bishop Robert Wright said. “Green Gate has helped us develop a communications strategy that speaks to our purpose. Most importantly, our call to love like Jesus has been heard beyond the walls of the church. We are thrilled.”
 
Green Gate Marketing founder and CEO, Katherine Branch, traveled to Cincinnati to receive these awards from Episcopal Communicators for work done on behalf of the diocese.
 
“Our belief that empathy and emotional connection are the foundations of effective marketing is the driving force behind the work we create for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta,” Branch said. “Whether we’re developing stories for Pathways or producing a video to share on social media, our aim is to create messaging that inspires and motivates people to live the purpose of the diocese.”

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The Religious Communicators Council (RCC) also recognized the work of Green Gate Marketing at its annual convention held March 30 – April 1 in Chicago. Pathways earned Best in Class designations in the categories of Graphic Design, Art and Photography, and Writing for Publication. The annual publication also received an Award of Excellence in the Periodicals; Single Issue category, while Connecting received a merit award for digital communications.

Pathways also earned four platinum and gold awards at the 2017 Hermes Creative Awards, and the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association recognized the diocese as one of three finalists in the Visual Branding — B2C category at this year’s Atlanta Marketer of the Year Awards (AMY) ceremony held in March. The rebranding of the diocese, which was led by Branch’s team at Green Gate Marketing, consisted of logo creation, the creation and launch of the news and events website Connecting, and implementation of a new, integrated social media strategy. Pathways was also a finalist in the Direct Mail Marketing category at this year’s AMY Awards. 

Both Bishop Wright and Branch expressed their excitement for what lies ahead for the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Branch and her team are already working on this year’s issue of Pathways, and are working to redesign the diocese’s website.

“Challenging ourselves and the world to love like Jesus as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately, and grow spiritually begins with our messaging,” the Rev. Bishop Wright said. “Having an integrated communications strategy in place will be the key to our diocese fulfilling its purpose.”  

Polly Bond Awards at the Episcopal Communicator Conference

Category: Visual Arts: Photography
Honorable Mention: “Man’s Best Friend”

Category: Social Media: Instagram Post
Award of Excellence: For Faith

Category: Writing: Feature
Honorable Mention: Bearings Bike Shop

Category: Social Media: Facebook Post
Award of Excellence: Suicide Prevention

Category: Visual Arts: Layout (Front Page/Spread)
Award of Merit: Pathways: Bearings Bike Shop

Category: General Excellence: Integrated Social Media Presence
Award of Excellence: Diocese of Atlanta Social Media

Category: Video: Short-Form (Contracted)
Award of Merit: Easter and Joy

Category: General Excellence: Best Digital Periodical (Diocese/Organization)
Award of Excellence: Connecting Newsletter

2017 Atlanta Marketer of the Year (AMY) Awards

Category: Direct Mail Marketing (2 or 3 dimensional printed mailing)
Finalist: Pathways Magazine

Category: Visual Branding – B2C
Finalist: Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Rebrand

Religious Communicators Council (RCC)

Category: Graphic Design, Art and Photography
Best of Class 2017: Pathways Magazine

Category: Writing for Publication
Best of Class 2017: Pathways Magazine

Category: Periodicals; Single Issue
Excellence: Pathways Magazine

Category: Digital Communications; Website
Merit: Connecting Website

Hermes Creative Awards

Category: Magazine
Platinum: Pathways magazine

Category: Publication Overall
Platinum: Pathways publication

Category: Logo
Gold: Logo - Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Category: Publication
Gold: Pathways photography

Category: Publication Article
Honorable Mention: “Building Connections: Bearings Bike Shop” - Pathways


Beecken Center Offers Volunteer Disaster Chaplaincy Training to All

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The Beecken Center will be holding disaster chaplaincy training In partnership with the National Disaster Interfaiths Network, the Beecken Center at the Sewanee Inn in Sewanee, Tennessee August 7–9, 2017 for all clergy and spiritual caregivers of every faith. Upon receiving the certification, participants will be able to volunteer within their diocese or faith community, or with NDIN and its national partners, offering spiritual first-aid as an essential part of response and recovery in the face of natural and human-made disasters. Disaster mental health professionals and emergency managers are also encouraged to enroll in the course to learn best practices in spiritual first-aid.

Read full announcement here.


Alleluia Butterflies Land at St. James, Marietta

Each year, well before Epiphany ends, I’m asked a question by many of the parishioners at St. James Episcopal Church in Marietta, Georgia, “Are the children going to make their Alleluia Butterflies this year?”  It is not just because I fear being run out of town on the very rails that brought the founders of St. James to our railroad centered-city, that I always answer, “Absolutely!”   Our Alleluia Butterflies are weatherproof creations that we make and place all around the grounds of St. James to herald the resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning. 

Early in Epiphany, I gather colorful art foam sheets, templates of butterfly shapes - both large and small - religious and springtime art foam stickers, jewels, craft glue, circle hole punches, black chenille stems, and welding rods.  In addition, I locate our symbols of Christ cards, which are from the Episcopal Children’s Curriculum.  

On the last Sunday of Epiphany, we reserve Church School time for the much-anticipated making of our Alleluia Butterflies!  As a whole group, we discuss Lent, then talk about symbols of Easter and of Christ, as we display the ECC cards with illustrations of those symbols.  

Then out come the supplies and we begin tracing, cutting, and decorating the butterflies. The older elementary children draw their symbols with black pen or permanent marker, then adorn them with a few foam stickers for additional color.  A thorax is cut from a coordinating color and glued to the butterfly for extra strength. Holes are punched at the top, and chenille stems are threaded through and curled to mimic antennae. 

The preschool teachers usually precut two butterflies for each child, one to decorate with the Easter symbol stickers, and one to design and take home, with an extra sheet of tissue paper for wrapping.  The “cocoons” are then hidden under beds or in closets until Easter morning.  Early on we found that the wee ones were so delighted with their creations, that they did not want to leave church without taking one home!

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The teens and adults are certainly not left out.  A butterfly-making station with all the needed supplies, plus directions, is prepared in our Parish Hall.  Even though children make their own creation in Church School, families often enjoy fashioning another butterfly or two together.

After a bit of drying time, the butterflies are gathered and processed through the church halls to the sounds of a recorded Gregorian Chant, then“buried” in the basement of our Parish Hall.

As the end of Lent approaches, a volunteer and I bring the butterflies out of their box long enough to cut two horizontal slits in each, accommodating the welding rod upon which the butterfly will be placed.  After initially thinking wooden rods would work, I came upon welding rods as a strong, yet flexible mounting – one that would allow the butterflies to sway in the wind and suggest their flight.  I located a welding supply company, and they helped me determine that 2.4mm rods would do the job.  The rods are bent back in a 45 degree angle, about 8 inches from one end.  The angled end of the rod is threaded through the slits in the butterfly and secured at the back with wide, clear tape then returned to the basement.

Late in the afternoon on Easter Eve, volunteers gather to “plant” the butterflies around our church grounds.  St. James is at the corner of two heavily traveled  streets in our town, so there is much ground to cover, and lots of exposure for the creations.  As we busy ourselves, we often have passers-by roll down their car windows and ask us questions, as well as walkers stopping for an explanation.  St. James’ Christian education takes place on the streets of Marietta, too!

Although parishioners and visitors see the butterflies as they come to the Easter Vigil, Easter morning is when the butterflies can really be admired.  The newest butterflies are placed just outside the main church entrance, so that the children can more easily find their art, a tradition that for St. James’ is much like an Easter egg hunt!  Older butterflies are searched for as well, as the youth and families seem to enjoy finding the butterflies they made when they were younger.  It is a beautiful time in many ways!

I cannot imagine Easter at St. James without our Alleluia Butterflies. They have become a tradition that is meaningful for the children, their parents, and me – a creative way to bury our alleluias, and to experience the joy of Easter in a truly intergenerational way.


Inter-Religious Council at Emory by Clare Reid

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I was ridiculously involved with the Episcopal Church community when I was in high school. I went to seven Happenings, was Rector of Happening 63, a member of the Happening Steering Committee, I was on the Youth Commission, I went to every single Reunion, I was heavily involved with EYC at my church, I was a member of my church choir, and I was at Camp Mikell for multiple weeks every summer since 2006. Diocesan kickball tournament? I was there, every year. Tubing trip? You bet. I wouldn’t have known what to do with myself if I hadn’t been surrounded by Episcopalians my age at least once a week.

Flash forward a few years, and I’m a sophomore at Emory now. I’m still highly involved in Episcopal life – I’m in a church choir, attend church every Sunday, and I was on the Planning Team for the recent Campus Ministries retreat. And I’m very involved with the Emory Canterbury Club, but there’s a catch to that one. I am currently the only undergraduate member of Canterbury.

Now, that’s not to say that Emory Canterbury doesn’t exist. Two incredible graduate students, plus our wonderful chaplain, meet with me once a week at various restaurants around Emory to eat and chat about theology and the church today. The graduate student program which also meets separately once a week is healthy and even growing. And we also have programming, believe it or not – successful programming, at that. We’ve been hosting, in partnership with Fearless Dialogues, an event called the Round Table every month where we discuss the deep questions of life. Our most successful event had around 70 people attend, and I’m really proud of that.

But being the only undergraduate member of Canterbury has definitely not been ideal. It’s been really alienating to not be able to talk with other people about my faith very often. I look at my friends who call their 10- or 15-person clubs “super small,” and then I look at my little club and can’t help but feel like I’m doing something wrong, like maybe if I had sent out one more email or talked to that uninterested student one more time, Emory Canterbury would somehow magically be successful. It is, in a word, incredibly frustrating.

So this year, when I got an email telling me that I had been nominated to be the Episcopal representative on Emory’s Inter-Religious Council, I had to laugh a little. Of course I had been nominated. Who else was there to be on the council? I was excited, sure, but pretty apprehensive when I showed up to the first IRC meeting. I was already used to being the only Christian among my friends, to being asked over and over “Why do you have to wear that cross every day?” and “Wow, you’re really into that Jesus stuff, aren’t you?” I was expecting more of the same alienation, feeling a little like I was adrift in a little Episcopal boat in a huge sea.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. IRC has been the most incredible experience that I could have asked for as a person of faith. It’s not just a free dinner every Monday, and it’s not just a group of people who sit around a table and chat idly about our religions. It is an incredibly enriching and lively group that changes my life, my worldview, and my way of thinking every time I step into the room.

IRC is a handpicked group of undergraduate students from almost every religious student organization on campus. There are Christians of every denomination – Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterian, Mormon, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Non-Denominational, and, yes, Episcopalian – and Jewish people of Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox backgrounds. There are Hindus from every region and country, Muslims of many sects, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, deists, and agnostics. And all of us love each other, support each other, and always, always listen. Every week, we discuss how our faiths view different topics, such as art, immigration, outsiders, or history. We learn how to greater accept, make space for, and defend each other’s faiths. We support the events of the groups represented in the council, and attend each other’s religious services to learn even more about the faiths we represent together.

IRC has become my main faith community at Emory, now. I have learned so much about both my faith and the faiths of the people around me. And hearing that the tenets of so many other faiths coincide with ours – values like unconditional love, acceptance, living a life dedicated to God, giving to charity, and helping people in need – gives me more and more faith in the idea of a higher power every time we discuss it. And the fact that we keep coming back to each other every week, despite our busy schedules and the fact that we all come from so many different backgrounds, is pretty affirming as well.

Every year, during Spring Break, IRC takes a trip together, and this year, I decided to go along. Just like everything else that IRC does, the trip was incredibly eye-opening, relationship-strengthening, and, most of all, fun. Our topic for the trip was immigration, and throughout the four days we spent in New York City, we visited Ellis Island, toured the United Nations, walked through the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and attended workshops at the United Nations Church Center. We heard from refugee and immigration advocates and lawyers, and learned more about immigration history and current law than I had ever learned in any history class.

Of course, that isn’t to say that we didn’t also have fun. We visited the Met, saw a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade, took pictures in Times Square, went to Compline at Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church, and, of course, ate our way through just about every neighborhood in Manhattan – all the while, making an absurd amount of religion-related jokes. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a group of people with you that finally think it’s hilarious when someone cracks a joke about incense. At one point, we quite literally danced through the Upper East Side singing our favorite hymns. I’m sure people thought we were off our rockers when we were laughing on the subway about our various holidays, from Hanukkah to Diwali to Eid al-Fitr to Easter, and the ridiculousness that ensues at each and every one of them. Being with people who love their faiths with a passion, no matter what faiths they’re from, is so unbelievably refreshing.

When we got home from New York, all of us sat down on the following Monday at IRC for dinner again, like usual. It felt like a little family, cracking jokes about how much one of our advisors loves eating chocolate and how it makes Ramadan especially hard for him, or how the priest in charge is so ridiculously proud of the fact that she’s from Mississippi. It really feels like home, being with these people and sharing this sacred time that we have with them. And when two Jewish representatives and I had a huge a cappella performance the other night, the Catholic representative and the Presbyterian representative were sitting right in the front to cheer us on and give us a huge hug after the show. That’s what religion is all about, isn’t it? Loving the people around you unconditionally, and celebrating and supporting them in every aspect of their lives? I think so.

It’s so easy for us to sit tight in our little Episcopal bubble – or any other bubble of faith, to be honest. It’s so easy to consider religious time to be only when we are with people of our same faith. But I have to tell you, inter-religious work has quickly become one of the most important facets of my life both on campus and off. It has enriched and educated me in so many unimaginable ways. If there’s one thing I can tell people to do, it’s to get out and learn from people with faiths that are different from your own. It will change your life. Spend holy time with them. Worship with them. Be their friend. It will strengthen and fulfill your faith in so many new ways, and it is absolutely the easiest way to make just about any group of people into a sacred community. “When two are gathered together in my name, I am there among them” doesn’t just have to refer to Episcopalians. It can refer to anyone who has faith and is glad to share their joy for religion with you. So go forth and share it.


ECF Grants $26,000 to Local Ministries and Organizations Fighting Hunger

Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia (ECF) grants $26,000 to local ministries and organizations fighting hunger. Funds were raised at 33rd Annual Atlanta Hunger Walk/Run.

On March 5, 2017, the ECF partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and local faith organizations for the 33rd Annual Hunger Walk/Run. More than 450 Episcopalians walked, ran, or volunteered for the Diocese of Atlanta, with 34 teams formed in support of ECF. Prior to the 5K walk/run, more than 120 youth and adults attended the Eucharist at nearby Emmaus House, celebrated by Father Ricardo Bailey, which featured a powerful sermon by ECF board member Clayton Harrington calling Episcopalians to “choose the hard way” of fighting against poverty and oppression.

“Each year the Episcopal community shows up to not only participate in the Hunger Walk/Run, but to raise funds to support those facing food insecurity in our community,” said Lindsey Hardegree, Executive Director for the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia. “The need is great. More than 25 percent of Georgia children face food insecurity, and Georgia is seventh in the nation for senior citizens facing hunger. Funds raised by our parishes through the Hunger Walk/Run are granted back to our communities to help end hunger.”

The 2017 Hunger Walk/Run was an incredible success, and with the significant help of parishes around the Diocese, ECF has received nearly $26,000 to support local hunger-related ministries and organizations. ECF is dedicated to funding opportunities for Episcopal parishes to work with their local community and nonprofits to serve the poor and oppressed.

With that in mind, ECF will grant these funds to the following hunger-related ministries and organizations:

  • Action Ministries, who partners with multiple Episcopal parishes, will receive a grant of $10,000 to support their regional hunger initiatives in the Northwest (Rome area), Mountain (Gainesville area), Northeast (Athens-Clarke County area), and Piedmont (Covington area) Regions.
  • Community Helping Place will receive a grant of $4,000 for food costs at their food pantry which has been matched by a $4,000 gift from the parishioners of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church (Dahlonega).
  • Malachi’s Storehouse will receive a grant of $10,400 to underwrite the cost of chicken for their food pantry at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church (Dunwoody) for one year.
  • St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church (Decatur) will receive a grant of $1,329.19 towards purchasing a new refrigerator/freezer as a part of the expansion of their food pantry ministry to enable hot meal service.

Special thanks also go out to the top fundraising individuals:

  • Shirley Lee of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church (Atlanta)
  • Connie Bergeron of St. Catherine's Episcopal Church (Marietta)
  • Ashley Erwin of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church (Atlanta)
  • Veronica Ridenhour of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church (Morrow)
  • Zachary Thompson of Church of Our Saviour (Atlanta)

In addition, this year, Right Rev. Robert C. Wright issued a challenge for the Bishop’s Cup – the parish that raised the most funds for the Hunger Walk/Run would receive the coveted award trophy as well as a gift of $3,300 to be used for the parish’s outreach ministries. This year’s recipient of the Bishop’s Cup is St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church who raised $6,760! Special recognition goes to St. James Episcopal Church (Clayton) who came in a close second at $4,940 and to Church of Our Saviour, Christ Church (Norcross), and St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church who each raised more than $2,000 to help end hunger in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

For more information about the Hunger Walk/Run, including how you can create a team to support the event in 2018, please contact Lindsey Hardegree at 404.601.5362 or LHardegree@episcopalatlanta.org.

About Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia: 
Founded in 1982 as the Episcopal Charities Foundation, the Episcopal Community Foundation for Middle and North Georgia (ECF) provides funding, leadership, and resources to enable Episcopal parishes and nonprofit partners to lift up people facing poverty and oppression and to achieve significant, long-lasting impact in the Diocese of Atlanta. Since its inception, ECF has donated more than $4 million to promote thriving and spiritually strong individuals, families, and communities locally. Learn more at www.ecfimpact.org.

About The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta:
The Diocese of Atlanta was created in 1907 and serves the cities, towns, and communities in Middle and North Georgia. Led by the Right Rev. Robert C. Wright, it is comprised of 110 welcoming worship communities. Our purpose is to challenge ourselves and the world to love like Jesus as we worship joyfully, serve compassionately, and grow spiritually. Learn more at www.episcopalatlanta.org.


Emmaus House Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

Emmaus House's 50-year anniversary gala “Forward from 50” is taking place on May 7. The event will feature special guests including Bishop Robert Wright and Dr. Beth-Sarah Wright, with bluegrass music by The Parson’s Pickers.  Click here to RVSP and see more event details.
 

Emmaus House, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, provides education, opportunity, assistance, and advocacy in partnership with our neighbors in Peoplestown. Emmaus House seeks to empower people whose lives are affected by poverty, race inequities, and educational disparities.

In 1967, Father Austin Ford, an Episcopal priest and advocate for civil rights, moved into a dilapidated two-story home in Peoplestown along with two nuns and a seminary student. Father Ford garnered resources to benefit Peoplestown residents and established an after-school program, monthly transportation for family members of inmates to Reidsville State Prison, chapel services, hot meals, and a poverty rights office. He led efforts for welfare rights, neighborhood empowerment, and racial justice. Under Father Ford's leadership and with its subsequent executive directors, Emmaus House has evolved over the past 50 years into an important resource for the Peoplestown community. Since that time, the organization has focused on increasing its impact in client-responsive and measurable ways. You can learn more about Emmaus House here.


Bishop Wright Teaches COURSE: Courage in an Anxious World

During the weekend of May 16-18, 2017, the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Wright will be leading a course at Sewanee University’s School of Theology on strategies between the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and today's leadership practice. With the church facing decreasing numbers, Rev. Wright will teach participants how to hold steady in the face of this anxiety as the church exists at the juncture between current reality and future possibilities. The goal of the course is to prepare participants to teach the principles of Adaptive Leadership as the foundations of discipleship and to the benefit of the Church.

Read full announcement here.


The Church of the Atonement Celebrates Easter With a Rebirth of its Own

As the Easter season nears its apex, one church is celebrating the occasion in more ways than one. Located in High Point, a wooded Sandy Springs neighborhood, the Church of the Atonement is going under a new name that comes with a resurrection for the 50-year-old church. After dwindling to a dozen worshipers a year ago, Highpoint Episcopal Community Church signifies a new beginning with new leadership that puts community above rule-making.

“We’re having a great rebirth,” said Ralph Edwards, a 40-year church member, after a recent Sunday service. “We got roots, and we also have buds.”

Read the full story here.  


SUMMA Theological Debate Camp at the University of the South

Applications are now being accepted for the 2017 session of SUMMA Debate Camp at the University of the South, July 18–26. This year, camp will feature keynote speaker Leah Libresco, contributing editor of America, and—as an undergraduate—a member of Yale University's Political Union (a debating society).

SUMMA is open to high school students of any faith entering grades 9-12 in the fall of 2017. SUMMA offers students a unique opportunity to explore faith through intellectual channels while making lifelong friends and having lots of fun on one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country!

At SUMMA Camp, students learn valuable skills for debate, public speaking, and theological reflection. No previous debate experience or formal theological study is necessary. Campers have a true collegiate experience, but it's not all work! There is plenty of time left over for swimming, sports, movies, bowling, and lots of great summer fun!

"Speak the truth in love," as St. Paul admonished the Ephesians, is a practice followed throughout camp, as students are taught to approach difficult topics with reason and respect. At the beginning of camp, a resolution is introduced, and each student argues both sides of the issue.

For all students, the cost of SUMMA is partially defrayed through donations, grants, and an endowment. The cost to parents is $750, which includes room, all meals, and all materials.

A limited number of scholarships are available for students with demonstrated financial need.

For more information and to apply, visit summa.sewanee.edu.


Muslim Woman to Preach at Episcopal Service

ATLANTA - A Muslim woman is to preach Tuesday during a service in which Episcopal priests and deacons will reaffirm the vows first taken at their ordinations.

Soumaya Khalifah, executive director and founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta was chosen to preach by Atlanta’s Episcopal Bishop Robert C. Wright. Wright said he chose Khalifah because of her ongoing efforts to bridge the gaps between religions.

“Soumaya provides a wonderful example for how to share the love of God; the same God worshiped by all the world’s Christians, Jews and Muslims,” Wright said. “It is an example that has never been more needed.”

The renewal of vows service will be held Tuesday, April 11, at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell beginning at 11 a.m. The service is open to the public.

Khalifa, born in Alexandria, Egypt, said she long wanted to share the rich complexities of her Muslim religion and background with fellow Americans of different faiths. But she never imagined her first
experience doing so would be after the horrific events of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Today the Islamic Speakers Bureau she founded in 2001, reaches thousands of people, focusing on education and debunking negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.

Among Khalifah’s accomplishments is a 16-part television series on AIB TV that she hosted titled "Meet Your Muslim Neighbors.” Khalifah’s work and life story was featured in the book "50 Green Card Stories" and in the New York Times.

Khalifa holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the University of Houston and a master's degree in human resources from Georgia State University. She and her husband Mohamed have 3 children: Dr. Yousuf Khalifa, Mr. Osama Khalifa and Ms. Yosra Khalifa. Soumaya and Mohamed have been residents of Georgia since 1988.

Tuesday’s is not the first time this Episcopal service has featured a preacher from another religion.  In 2015, Wright arranged to have the renewal service held at The Temple, a Reform synagogue on Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta. The preacher for that service was The Temple’s senior Rabbi Peter S. Berg.


Shereetha Jackson Involved in Upcoming Dismantling Racism Ventures

Shereetha Jackson is a member of the Commission for Dismantling Racism and a Fellow for the Commission in the Justice Ministry Education Program at Auburn Seminary and the following are three of the upcoming ventures with which she is involved:

Legacy Project
The Legacy Project is an idea based on 3C's (Concept, Collaboration, and Connection) which, ideally, will lead to the biggest C of all--Change for the better. Currently, Sheeretha has partnered with Posts for Peace and Justice to develop a two day workshop targeting youth and young adults within the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, other interfaith communities, and local nonprofits. She is a Fellow for the Commission (under the Justice Ministry Education program at Auburn Seminary) and the Youth Ministry Coordinator for Church of the Epiphany.

FTE Christian Leadership Forum
Sheeretha Jackson recently received the news that she has been selected to join over 50 other young adult leaders at the Forum for Theological Exploration's (FTE) Christian Leadership Forum May 31-June 3 in Atlanta, GA. During this time she will engage with leaders from diverse communities and organizations from across the US and Canada, while also exchanging ideas and connecting with a community of peers.

This year’s theme is “Lead Change for Good.” Below are some of the featured speakers and workshop leaders for the event:

  • René August, The Warehouse, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Heber Brown, Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Ched Myers, Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries, Oak View, California
  • Alexia Salvatierra, Hope Lutheran Church, Hollywood, California
  • Janet Wolf, Children's Defense Fund, Nashville, Tennessee
  • And many more!

Lift Every Voice
This will be an opportunity for Shereetha Jackson to share the Dismantling Racism Youth Curriculum that Commissions on Youth and Dismantling Racism are currently developing. LEV is a three-year ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina for youth and young adults, a ministry designed to revisit the historical truths of slavery and the Civil Rights movement in North Carolina and Apartheid in South Africa.
The event will be held July 21-July 25. To read more about this, click here.

To learn more about the Commission for Dismantling Racism, click here.


Experience Monastic Tradition for The Triduum and Easter

Experience Monastic Tradition for The Triduum and Easter with The Order of Saint Helena Sisters

For those wishing silent retreat time and a monastic experience of Holy Week, call the Episcopal Convent of Saint Helena in North Augusta SC and reserve a guesthouse room for the nights of April 13 – 15.

Please see the convent schedule of special Holy Week services at www.osh.org.
Make a reservation through the website or contact our Guest Registrar with questions at guests@osh.org or 803-426-1616 (M-F, 9-5).

We’d love to share the Triduumquiet and Easter bells with you.


A New Approach to Dismantling Racism Training

Beginning in 2017, the Commission will be working even harder to encourage as much diversity as possible in each training session. Though we will continue the current practice of asking parishes to host a training day, we will limit the number of persons who can participate in each session from any given parish to seven. We have made this change so as many parishioners from around the diocese as possible experience the richness of getting out of their home parishes and enjoying the blessings of making their circle a bit wider.

Therefore, parishes will continue to be asked to host a day's training and to provide the morning refreshments and lunch when they host. We will work diligently to keep the enrollment in a training day around 21 with no more than seven people coming from any individual parish. We hope that getting good participation from the churches located in the same convocation may come from outside of the particular convocation of the hosting parish. We want to make the training days as accessible as possible in 2017.

Also, we intend to schedule enough sessions so that all of the needs that exist for search committees, vestry members, and others to receive the required day of training will be met in a timely fashion.

If you have a question about this message, please email kayma53@att.net.

Learn more about Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism here.


An Invitation to a Diocesan-Wide Book Study for 2017

The Beloved Community: Commission for Dismantling Racism is inviting all parishes in our diocese to read Living Into God's Dream: Dismantling Racism in America. This volume, which is edited by Catherine Meeks, consists of essays from her and six other contributors, including Bishop Robert Wright. It is designed to be read individually or in a group. It has a study guide included in it, which will help to facilitate the discussion of the book.

The contributors hope that Living Into God's Dream will help foster new and more robust conversations on race during 2017 than we have had in the past. They believe that it is necessary for us to have a new conversation on race, one that acknowledges past gains as well as the current challenges that face us. This book is intended to help in that regard, and all parishes are encouraged to read and discuss it between Epiphany and Pentecost, if possible. However, if that time frame does not work well, parishes are asked to read and discuss it before the end of 2017. Please let us know of your plans for using the book when you have determined what you will be able to do.

Feel free to contact us for further information or if there is any way in which we can help you with your Dismantling Racism activities: kayma53@att.net.

To order a copy from Church Publishing, please click here.