Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Virtual Vacation Bible School: Amazing Stories, Unexpected Storytellers

Faith communities have been forced to address numerous challenges over the past few months as we all learn to navigate our lives, worship, formation, and our interactions with others while COVID-19 is in our midst. It has been exciting to see creative thinking and innovation with respect to digital worship and Christian formation opportunities as churches explore how to be the Church in our current reality. 
Faith communities have realized that we are so much more than what happens in our church buildings during Sunday worship. It is safe to say that this summer will be a different kind of summer as we continue social distancing efforts to help keep people safe. The traditional Vacation Bible School (VBS) program design of summers past, presents risks to the volunteers and participants as well as to their families. As a result, VBS is one of those summer formation opportunities that will require some creative thinking and adaptation in order to offer the program during the pandemic. Luckily, there are a number of virtually VBS options for faith communities and parents to explore this summer.
 A group of formation leaders from our diocese's Christian Education Network (CE-Net) developed a free virtual VBS program called Amazing Stories and Unexpected Storytellers that is highly flexible in both context and execution. Amazing Stories and Unexpected Storytellers is designed to adapt to the needs of parishes and congregations as well as individual families. It can be led for groups via Zoom, Facebook Live, or some other virtual meeting platform or simply be led by families at home.
The program design was inspired by the books A Spy on Noah's Ark and The Spy at Jacob's Ladder by Lindsay Hardin Freeman. We are thankful that the publisher, Forward Movement, has given us permission to use video readings of these stories through August 31, 2020. Freeman's books share the Bible stories from the perspective of an unexpected voice rather than the narrators we are used to hearing. If you are interested in learning more about the books visit www.forwardmovement.org. 
 Amazing Stories and Unexpected Storytellers consists of three segments/sessions - each segment features three storytelling videos (view on the Diocese's YouTube channel), crafts, recreational activities, science experiments, and outreach/mission challenges. The three segments include:
  • FAITH - God Calls Us to be Heroes explored through the stories of Miriam, David, and Deborah.
  • HOPE - Jesus with Us explored through the stories of the Woman of the Well, Jesus Calms the Storm, and Jesus Feeds the 5000.
  • LOVE - Lead with Jesus explored through the stories of the Last Supper, Dorcas, and Pentecost.
Whether you are a formation leader leading the program virtually or a parent using the program in your home you can use whatever components best meets your needs.   There is plenty of content included to provide for a more traditional but virtual one-week program, multi-week program, or the stories can be stretched out weekly over the course of the summer or the user can create any variation in between. 
Click here to explore the program. Efforts are underway to provide a Spanish translation of the program which should be available in the coming weeks.
If you would like to explore other virtual VBS alternatives there are a number of options available from various vendors. Many of these programs offer two distinct fee structures for families and church use.  
  • Church Publishing offers the free Summer Activity Pack for Children and Families Vol. 1.  Click here to download the packet.
  • Illustrated Ministry offers a fee-based program called Compassion Camp. Click here to learn more about it. 
  • GenOn Ministries offers suggestions to modify their integrational fee-based VBS -All God's Children: The Church Family Gathers for Summer to virtual space. Click here to learn more about their program.
  • Go Curriculum has an online fee-based program with music, titled Backyard Bolt Towards Faith in Jesus.  Click here to learn more about the program.
  • Group Publishing is offering some guidance to adapt their fee-based packaged VBS programs to neighborhood VBS options. Click here to view their resources.
  • Cokesbury is offering some resources to adapt their fee-based packaged VBS programs to virtual space.  Click here to explore their resources.
If you use Amazing Stories and Unexpected Storytellers this summer the planning team would love to hear how you used it in your setting. If you have questions about the program contact Lynn Farlin, Canon for Formation (lfarlin@diosova.org), or CE-Net Co-Chairs, Vicky Koch (vkoch@stpaulsnorfolk.org) or Gizelle Moran (gizelle@trinity-portsmouth.org). 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Bishop Vaché Scholarship applications due July 1

The Bishop Vaché Scholarships provide funds to assist both low-income and minority undergraduate college students in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia. First-year students as well as returning college students are welcome to apply. Scholarship awards range from $500-$2500 per academic year. To be considered, complete application packets must be postmarked by July 1, 2020. Click here for application form.  

Beloved Community "Rapid-Response" Grants available - apply June 19-August 15

The Presiding Officers' Advisory Group on Beloved Community Implementation is pleased to announce the availability of grants to address the racial disparities laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic and for groups responding to racist violence and policing reform. 
Across America, COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting people of color in terms of health outcomes, access to testing and treatment, safe work environments, and more.  At the same time, many recognize the pandemic of ongoing violence directed against black people and other people of color, especially at the hands of law enforcement personnel in communities in the Americas and beyond.
All proposed projects must demonstrate adherence to relevant local, diocesan and state public health guidelines for gathering and interaction. More information about the criteria and the application process are available here. Learn more about the Church's work on Becoming Beloved Community here, and see resources for "Responding to Racist Violence and Police Brutality" here.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Walk Your Faith on June 19

Juneteenth Celebration at Bruton Parish

A service commemorating Juneteenth will be held on June 19 at 9 am in the Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, Churchyard. Join us as we remember and celebrate the day when all American slaves were declared to be free. It took until June 19, 1865 to get the message to a group of slaves in Galveston, Texas, who had not been told they were free. The holiday is meant to commemorate the emancipation of 4 million slaves, but particularly the small handful who weren't aware that emancipation had come months earlier (250,000). 
This service will include a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, the singing of Lift Every Voice and Sing, known as the Black National Anthem, a presentation of the Juneteenth Flag, remarks by the Rev. Willis R. Foster, Sr., in addition to a Litany of Repentance. The Right Rev. Susan B. Haynes will be present for the Commissioning for the Ministry of Justice and Reconciliation. Join us as we remember and celebrate the day when all American slaves were declared to be free. Please wear a mask and observe social distancing.

Registration open for upcoming session of Virtual Episcopal Latino Ministry Competency course

Registration is now open for a special Virtual Episcopal Latino Ministry Competency Course (VELMC), an innovative five-day intensive course designed for diocesan staff, clergy, lay leaders, and seminarians to gain practical knowledge and cultural competency for Latino/Hispanic ministry. The course will be conducted online in English, August 10-14, 2020.

The five-day VELMC includes 20 hours of online classroom presentations, worship services, and group dialogue, with comfortable breaks and an ample lunch time factored in from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (EDT) each day. VELMC has an Early Bird registration rate of $250, if registered by July 3.  Regular registration of $300 has a deadline of August 3. Click here to register.

United Thank Offering presents the Inaugural Great EpisGOpal Race

The United Thank Offering (UTO) invites all to support the 2020 Ingathering by joining them in gratitude, grabbing a pair of sneakers, and racing YOUR way in the Great EpisGOpal Virtual Race. Anytime between July 22 - July 31, choose a preferred mode and distance and race to raise money for COVID-19 relief. Participants can bike a 10K, run a half marathon, skate a mile, and more-the options are limitless. All of the funds that are raised will be collected for the 2020 UTO Ingathering and dispersed to ministries responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking for some friendly competition? Start a team with friends, church, or diocese and see how far the team can collectively go. Prefer to keep your sneakers in the closet? Sign up and invite others to donate to a personal page. Registration is just $15 with the option to purchase a race shirt with an amazing original design by Chris Corbin.    
Click here for more information about the EpisGOpal Race and how you can participate. 

Family camping at Chanco

Did COVID foil your family vacation plans? We have the answer for you - Chanco is now open for family camping! Guests may enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, paddle boarding, hiking, campfires, and fishing along the beach - just to name a few of our fantastic outdoor activities. With options ranging from campsite camping to renting fully equipped homes, we have the vacation option for you! Click here for more detailed information including a "Welcome to Chanco Family Camping" packet, a suggested packing list and more. Click here for a family camping reservation form to email to us at hospitality@chanco.org or contact us at 888-724-2626 to make your reservation today! Welcome back to the magical forest!

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

An invitation to watch the metrics with Bishop Haynes

After conferring with the medical and legal subgroups of the Advisory Panel for Re-Gathering, Bishop Haynes invites you to follow along with her as she watches the recommended metrics for determining when a 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases has happened in the State of Virginia. Bishop Haynes, at the recommendation of doctors, physician assistants and registered nurses, will be monitoring the decline in new cases, hospitalizations, commitments to ICU's, deaths and percent positivity as they are updated daily on the following sites:
Virignia Department of Health (Specifically, she will be looking at the 7-day average)
Covid Act Now (reports on readiness of hospitals, adequacy of testing, etc.)
Additionally, Bishop Haynes and Canon Hoffman will continue to meet with the medical advisory panel at the beginning of each week so that they can assist with correctly interpreting the data. Bishop Haynes will let the diocese know each week what the progress is; in the meantime, you are invited to watch along with her. The hopeful news is that we are getting closer, and we will see each other again very soon.

Congratulations graduates!

We want to celebrate all of our seniors who are graduating. It may not have been your typical year, but their achievements are still a huge accomplishment. Youth Missioner Megan Dern has put together a Celebration video of the seniors who participated in our call for pictures. You can view the video here. We know there are more seniors out there who are celebrating this special time and we send our sincerest congratulations to them as well.
Connect college-bound students with campus ministy 
The Diocesan Office can provide graduating seniors with information to help them make connections with the Episcopal Church and Canterbury fellowship programs when they arrive on campus in the fall. If you are interested in information for you or your student's upcoming school, please contact Youth Missioner Megan Dern (mdern@diosova.org) with the name of the school you will be attending.

Resources for adult formation related to race and diversity

Virginia Theological Seminary's Building Faith blog shared these resources for adult formation and discipleship that relate to race and diversity:
Sacred Ground is a film-based dialogue series on race & faith. It is a small-group curriculum designed in 10 parts with documentary films and readings that focus on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories. This curriculum is part of the larger  Becoming Beloved Community commitment within The Episcopal Church to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice in our personal lives, our ministries, and our society.
White Privilege: Let's Talk - A Resource for Transformational Dialogue is an adult curriculum that's designed to invite church members to engage in safe, meaningful, substantive, and bold conversations on race. 
GCORR Real Talk is a series of conversations with community and faith leaders to discuss and uncover the disparities of race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status that are deeply embedded in our social fabric.  
Vital Conversations 1: Realities of Race and Racism is a video-based series featuring contemporary theologians, sociologists, laity, clergy, and other thought-leaders dealing with challenges of race, culture, and oppression in the Church and world today.  
One Body Many Members: A journey for Christians across race, culture and class is a faith-based journey of discovery to learn, share and proclaim God's intention of oneness among people of every racial, ethnic and class background. How do we find that unity in a world as diverse as ours? How can we build up "one body" as strong as that?
Implicit Bias: What We Don't Think We Think is an on-demand online course for anyone who is interested in learning and teaching others about implicit bias. The course is designed to be done at your own pace with pieces for individual work, group work, and optional sermon preparation. 
You can find many more resources on the Justice & Advocacy page of the diocesan website.

Practitioners of Gratitude: A new Facebook group for challenging times

The ECW's United Thank Offering (UTO) Team of the Diocese of Virginia invites you to join a new Facebook group called Practitioners of Gratitude. Find us on Facebook, join, and then simply share a brief reflection on moments for which you are, or have been, thankful during COVID-19. Your simple reflection has the power to significantly increase your well-being and your connection to God.
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what we receive, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives and the very source of that goodness: our amazing God.
The practice of gratitude helps us experience more positive emotions, relish good experiences, feel more alive, improve our health, deal with adversity, express more compassion and kindness, and build stronger relationships. Practitioners of Gratitude will tell you that the overflow of gratitude is contentment. Realizing God's abundant goodness, even on the hard days, is a gateway for joy.
Post your gratitude entry in our online, easy to find Facebook journal today and please consider making a gift of any amount to the United Thank Offering. 100% of what is collected this year will be given away to support Episcopal/Anglican ministries directly responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. Be sure to note that your donation is from the Diocese of Southern Virginia. https://unitedthankoffering.com/give

Chanco open to families - plan your vacation with us!

Normal Camp Chanco 2020 operations may be suspended, but family fun at Chanco is not! Chanco is open for families to enjoy one of our retreat houses with full kitchens, retreat lodge bedrooms, or our campsites. Canoeing, kayaking, swimming and paddle boarding are awaiting you on the James River at Chanco. Farmer Matt's Scavenger Hunt, fishing, hiking, stargazing, and bonfires are also fun outdoor activities you can enjoy with your family at Chanco this summer! Don't wait - Chanco is an affordable and fun family vacation available to you all summer! For more information or to make your reservation to visit our magical woods, please contact us at 888-7CHANCO (888-724-2626) or hospitality@chanco.org today!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Bishop Haynes' pastoral letter on the death of Mr. George Floyd

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies... Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.   (Amos 5:21-24)
We cannot continue to be silent. Too long we have refused to receive the breath of the Holy Spirit. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." In our silence we have dismissed the the indiscriminate killing and violence levied on people of color, and especially African-Americans. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are just the latest of a long list of people of color, known and unknown who have died because of our silence.
In that great hymn of the church, "Breathe on me, Breath of God" we ask God to Fill us with life anew that we may love as God loves and do what God would do. And yet our Black brothers and sisters cannot breathe. The breath of life is being choked out of them. The knees which bear down on their necks are our knees of White privilege, institutional and systemic racism. "I can't breathe!" is something they have been trying to tell us for a long time. Our brothers and sisters can't breathe. But we CAN breathe! And because we can breathe, it is time for us to stand up, give voice to their lament and outrage and voice to our lament and outrage. They can't breathe, but we can; and we must breathe and speak so that our breath can send out the word that what we have seen and heard IS UNACCEPTABLE.
If we remain silent, we will have betrayed our community. This is not a call to polarization. This is not about pitting the police as villains and the people they are trying to arrest as the good guys. We are all beloved children of the God in whose image we all are created. But we are all pre-disposed toward actions of evil; and it is toward those actions that we can no longer be silent. The cry for justice must be sounded out by all to whom the breath of life has been given.
Many will say that words are not enough; and indeed they are not. They must be coupled with action that is constructive and supportive of all life. The words that go out on our breath must be matched with actions that support our Baptismal promises to persevere and resist evil, to repent of sin, to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve all persons loving our neighbors as ourselves, and to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. If we abandon these promises, we have walked away from God.
But what can we do? We can begin to look at ourselves and to root out every trace of our own racism. And it exists within all of us. This idea distresses us, because we want to be good people, and the idea of racism is abhorrent to us. But it exists. And the sooner we begin to shine the light on it, the sooner we will be freed from its oppression; and then, maybe then, our brothers and sisters of color will also be freed. The Episcopal Church, in its efforts towards "Becoming Beloved Community," has developed a curriculum called Sacred Ground. Many churches are beginning to offer opportunities to participate in this curriculum. If your church is one of them, please let the Diocesan office know. If you would like to find a group, please contact us, and we can help connect you. Our group on racial reconciliation, Repairers of the Breach, is working to update resources and action steps. Stay tuned through the Diocesan website, diosova.org.
I invite you to recall the Parable of the Good Samaritan. That wounded person is currently on the side of the road. That person cannot breathe. Are we going to stop and take action, or are we going to keep walking? What will we do so that one day everyone will be able to breathe.
Yours faithfully in Christ,

Presiding Bishop Curry's word to the Church: "When the cameras are gone, we will still be here"

"Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus. We will still be doing it when the news cameras are long gone."  
On May 30, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a Word to the Church on the death of Mr. George Floyd and the Church's commitment to the work of racial justice and reconciliation. 
Read Bishop Curry's Word to the Church here.    
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post on May 31, addressing the killing of George Floyd and violent protests in Minneapolis, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry wrote that "Love looks like all of us - people of every race and religion and national origin and political affiliation - standing up and saying 'Enough! We can do better than this. We can be better than this.'"
You can read Bishop Curry's message here.

CE-Net online gathering June 11

Join the Christian Education Network (CE-Net) for a Zoom meeting/conversation on Thursday, June 11, from 6 to 7 p.m. We'll get a chance to check in before we focus our time sharing and brainstorming on a "Different Kind of Summer" for formation.  
For this online gathering, whether you use a computer, phone or tablet, make sure your device has video capability and microphone enabled. Click here to register

Ridley Scholarship applications still being accepted

Ridley Scholarships are still available for fall 2020. The Ridley Foundation of the Diocese of Southern Virginia awards scholarships to undergraduate college students who are Episcopalians associated with a parish in Southern Virginia, are enrolled full-time, and maintain a 2.5 or better GPA. Scholarships are need-based, but are payable directly to the student (therefore do not affect already-existing scholarship aid from the college). All students who meet the criteria and file the application properly will receive some aid. Click here for complete information. Applications for Fall, 2020 awards will be received until June 20.