Monday, January 22, 2018

Civil Discourse Curriculum: A program for reflection, consideration, discussion

The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations has developed a five-week Civil Discourse Curriculum, focusing on civil discourse and designed for reflection, consideration and discussion. Available at no cost here, it is a five-week curriculum to guide discussions about politics, policy, and legislation, while strengthening our relationships with one another. The Curriculum is designed for church groups, adult forums, campus ministries and youth groups (not recommended for younger than 14 years old). 
"The Civil Discourse Curriculum was created as a resource to help folks understand and practice civil discourse, particularly as it relates to discussion about politics, policy and legislation, and why it is so important to living out our Gospel call and solving the problems facing our communities, country and the world," explained Alan Yarborough, Office of Government Relations Communications Coordinator and Office Manager.
Civil discourse is defined as an engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding, and has important applications for public policy and civic engagement.  
"We created the curriculum to be a five-week program so people can use it during Lent, but you can engage in it at any point throughout the year," noted the Rev. Shannon Kelly, Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries. "Lent is a particularly good time to pause, read, reflect and learn about the nature of civil discourse, how we can practice it, and why."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Save the Date: Vestry Training Days and Bishop's Day with Senior Wardens

Vestry Training Days will be held March 17 at St. Paul's, Norfolk and again on March 24 at St. Matthias, Midlothian. More information and registration available soon. These workshops are designed for all vestry members, and include: presentations on the role and duties of the vestry; best practices; opportunities to interact with members of other vestries; discussion of common challenges that vestries face and the impact of contextual change on congregational life.

Bishop's Day with Senior Wardens will be held March 24 at St. Matthias, Midlothian (concurrently with Vestry Training Day). More information and registration available soon. Bishop's Day for Senior Wardens is designed for Senior Wardens from all parishes and is an excellent training opportunity for new Senior Wardens. Led by the Bishop, assisted by senior diocesan staff, this workshop includes: discussion of issues and concerns particular to the office; best practices; how to develop a relationship with the rector; opportunities to have conversations with other senior wardens; opportunities for one-on-one time with the Bishop.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Absalom Jones Celebration on Feb. 10

Grace, Norfolk, will host the Absalom Jones Celebration on Saturday, February 10. The day will include:
  • Violence and Church Safety Symposium, 9 to 11 a.m. - a panel discussion with Virginia State Police and Petersburg Chief of Police
  • Lunch, 11 a.m. to noon - RSVP is required (see below)
  • Service of Celebration of Absalom Jones' Life and Work, 1 p.m. - Guest speaker will be the Rev. Canon John Harmon of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington DC; Celebrant will be Bishop Hollerith. A reception follows the service.
If you plan to be there for lunch, please RSVP to Grace Church, 757-625-2868 or Grace Church is located at 1400 E. Brambleton Avenue, Norfolk. 
Absalom Jones (November 7, 1746 - February 13, 1818) was an African-American abolitionist and clergyman. After founding a black congregation in 1794, he was the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church, in 1804. He is listed on the Episcopal calendar of saints and remembered liturgically on the date of his death, February 13, in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as "Absalom Jones, Priest, 1818".

Monday, January 8, 2018

Clergy transitions

Deacon Dana vanVliet-Pullin left St. Aidan's, Virginia Beach, on December 17, 2017.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Southern Virginia author featured in Forward Day by Day in January

Ken Woodley, a member of St. Anne's, Appomattox, is the author of the Forward Day by Day meditations for January 2018. If you are not a regular reader of Forward Day by Day, this is a wonderful opportunity that you don't want to miss. You can read the daily devotions online here. You can also subscribe to the print version of the devotions here or probably pick up a copy at your church. 
Ken Woodley spent thirty-six years as a journalist in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and his book, Gather Your Light, will be forthcoming from NewSouth Books. He and his wife, Kim, are licensed lay preachers at St. Anne's, Appomattox. You can follow Ken's wonderful blog, Gleaning in the Fields of Light, at

Bishop Hollerith's Christmas message 2017

Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of making a Sunday visitation to St. Paul's Church in Newport News. For those who have never visited the church building, St. Paul's is situated in the remains of what once was a grand downtown neighborhood in the center of the city. All that remains in that neighborhood now are municipal government buildings, a few businesses, structures belonging to the Newport News shipyard, and bits and pieces of low income housing. There is no longer any true neighborhood there like most of our parishes enjoy. In a real sense, St. Paul's is a parish in an urban wasteland.  
And yet, the membership of St. Paul's is very clear about their parish's role in the community - why they are there and what they believe God is calling them to do. While a portion of the congregation is made up of dedicated people who live in more desirable parts of town, the largest portion is comprised of people who are homeless, or very near homeless.
During my visit I was asked to lead a bible study and hold a general discussion with the community. Most who gathered for the conversation had come both to talk and to receive the free breakfast served after the class. For some the meal would be their only meal of the day - possibly the best of the week.
Needless to say, leading an adult class made up predominately of street people is not at all like leading any other adult class in our diocese. The attendees are not the least bit interested in talking about the diocesan budget, Talbot Hall, the bishop's vision for congregational development, or this summer's General Convention. In our discussion, other than some interesting initial questions about why bishops wear "pointy hats" (a question for which, I must confess, I did not have an adequate answer), the real topic of interest was the shooting in the Baptist church in Texas. It was clear that although the news was a few weeks old, many in attendance were still struggling to understand the tragedy. After several minutes of conversation, I became deeply impressed by the level of passion being expressed. People were genuinely perplexed and outraged that such a thing could ever happen in a church. And they wanted to talk about it!
But, it wasn't until later that afternoon while driving home that I figured out the meaning of what I had witnessed during the class. I had not witnessed an abstracted intellectual discussion on the need for gun control, or on politics, or on the psychology or sociology of mass murder. Rather, I had witnessed the passionate concerns of those who literally depend on their church to be their "safe space," their sanctuary, from the dangers of the world. The people of St. Paul's - at least those who are its street clientele - attend church to escape the day-to-day violence of the streets. Church is where they go to escape being shot. The notion that church could be otherwise invokes in those challenged people a sense of injustice and a level of anxiety that most of us fortunate types will never comprehend.
I am not at all sure what it means to live in a world where innocent people are murdered in church. I don't know how to live with that reality yet. But, I do know - have been reminded by the good people of St. Paul's - the incredible power of grace that the Church conveys when it takes the risk of offering itself to the world as a true sanctuary of God. The Church is always at its best when it seeks to find ways of un-protecting itself, of being more vulnerable and more risk-taking. And its witness to the love of God is never as powerful as when it opens its doors to the world when all other doors are shut and locked down on Main Street. After all, such action is our way of saying to those suffering, or fearful, or in need, that there is room in the inn, by God! There is room in the inn!
Note: Many of our churches in Southern Virginia are actively engaged in various forms of ministry to the homeless. I hope all of us will find some way to both financially and physically support the unique ministry of St. Paul's, Newport News, as well as our local ministries during the holiday season and throughout the coming year.
Merry Christmas,
Click here for a PDF of this reflection you can download or print.   
The Bishop's reflection can also be found at

ECW Grapevine newsletter available

The Winter 2017 issue of the Diocesan ECW newsletter, The Grapevine, is now available here. You can also download this, and other ECW resources from the ECW pages of our website,