Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Episcopal Relief & Development responding to Nepal earthquake

Episcopal Relief & Development is working with the ecumenical ACT Alliance in Nepal and local partners in northern India and southwest China regarding urgent needs and assessment efforts following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near Kathmandu on the morning of April 25.

Responding to immediate needs for food, clean water and shelter, as well as the need for accurate information through on-the-ground assessment, Episcopal Relief & Development will support ACT Alliance efforts implemented through a partner office in Kathmandu.  The ACT Alliance works in coordination with major international groups such as UN OCHA to maximize efficiency and impact of aid, mobilizing local networks to reach remote areas. Episcopal Relief & Development is in contact with the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia regarding support for the work of the Deanery of Nepal, which is part of the Diocese of Singapore.  The organization may also support other partners in the region including CASA, the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches in India, and the Amity Foundation, an independent Christian organization in China.

"It is a frightening time, with so many homes and buildings already destroyed and the threat of aftershocks causing others to collapse," said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development's Senior Vice President of Programs.  "People need spiritual support as they try to keep their families safe, or find and save those who are missing.  We urge  prayers for all those impacted by the quake, and for those who are bringing relief, support and encouragement to people in need."  

Donations to the Nepal Earthquake Response Fund will enable Episcopal Relief & Development to support its partners' emergency relief efforts and on-the-ground assessment in the region.

Praying for the churches of Southern Virginia

As part of our liturgy at Annual Council 2015, each delegation wrote a prayer for their parish. We are sharing these prayers each week in the eNews so that we all can support one another in the upcoming year.

St. John's, Suffolk
Holy and most gracious God, we thank you for the limitless bounty you share with us and all creation. We are constantly in awe of the unearned mercy you show to us. We ask you to foster in us a sense of stewardship and loving care for our community; that we might be equipped to make a lasting and positive difference in our lives and the lives of all people we meet. We also ask you to help us to always move forward, even when we pause to refresh our view of your presence. Help us focus our pause to find clarity for the road you set before us. All this we ask through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

St. Michael's, Bon Air
Almighty God, we ask that you bless your servants who worship with the faith community of Saint Michael's Bon Air and that you hear our prayers for our mission and ministry goals this year; we pray for a strong commitment from our parish community to serve in our outreach ministries; we pray for enthusiastic participation in a vibrant parish life, especially as we establish our community garden; we pray for greater involvement of the children and youth of our parish in parish life, missions and outreach programs; we pray for a children's ministry director who will find creative and compelling ways to communicate God's word and its application to children's lives; we pray for a powerful music, arts & education ministry, and for wisdom and guidance in establishing a Center for Arts of Life in our parish; we pray that our facilities be used to fulfill our commitment to mission; we pray that through faithful stewardship of time, talent and treasure, we have the necessary resources to support what you have called us to do we do to fulfill our mission to Celebrate your Beauty, Love your People and Serve your World, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen

Bring your church into your neighborhood with All Our Children

Is your congregation hungry for more meaningful relationships with your neighbors, whether they're downtown or down the street? Would you like to connect with students and teachers in under-resourced schools in your area? Your congregation can help children reach their full potential and support their right to quality public education by forming a church-school partnership.

All Our Children, National Network is a network of congregations working in partnership with under-resourced public schools. The network's purpose is to promote, strengthen, and support grassroots church-school partnerships. They do this by sharing tools, materials, and best practices to nurture and support the teams who run individual programs.

For AOC, a partnership is an intentional relationship between a congregation and a school that is recognized by leaders of both institutions. AOC members are those partnerships. Each member partnership is unique. They focus on everything from running in-school & after-school programs, to classroom & teacher support, to leading advocacy coalitions for school budgets and facilities renovations.

To learn more about starting a church-school partnership, check out AOC's "10 Steps to Building a Church-School Partnership" and the other tools and materials on their website. You can reach the All Our Children team directly at info@allourchildren.org.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

James Solomon Russell Feast Day celebrated

By the Rev. Terrence Walker, Trinity, South Hill

The Rev. Dr. John L. Ghee and Bishop Hollerith 
The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia celebrated the Feast of the Venerable Doctor James Solomon Russell, Sunday, March 29, 2015, at the New RZUA Headquarters in La Crosse, Virginia. A native of Mecklenburg County, Russell attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute and taught school in North Carolina where he learned of the Episcopal denomination and became a convert. His most notable achievement, along with founding at least twenty churches in Southside Virginia, was the establishment of Saint Paul's College (1888-2013) in Lawrenceville, Virginia, an institution that trained and educated individuals who impact local and wider communities to this day.

Officiating at the service was the Right Reverend Herman Hollerith IV, Tenth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia. Among the other clergy of the Diocese was the Rev. Dr. Joseph N. Green, Jr., who was recognized for over sixty years of service to the Church and to the larger community.

In his sermon, the Reverend Doctor John L. Ghee, Presiding Bishop of the RZUA Churches of America, focused on the concept that divine purpose comes with a plan and with the resources necessary to accomplish that purpose. Referencing Russell's autobiography Adventure in Faith (Morehouse Publishing, 1936), Ghee enumerated the series of events that led to a nationally recognized college in rural Brunswick County, Virginia, being founded by a former slave. Ironically, Russell was also involved with the founding of the RZUA Churches of America.

Present for the service were three generations of the Russell family. Elected officials from Brunswick and Mecklenburg Counties were either on hand or represented at the celebration. A number of local businesses and individuals were sponsoring agents for the commemoration. Music was provided by the Sharon Baptist Church Mass Choir. Following the service, attendees retired to Trinity Episcopal Church for a light repast.

Praying for the churches of Southern Virginia

As part of our liturgy at Annual Council 2015, each delegation wrote a prayer for their parish. We are sharing these prayers each week in the eNews so that we all can support one another in the upcoming year.

St. John's, Hampton
Almighty and everlasting God, who from the beginning has placed within each one of us all that is needed to succeed in walking the path of the cross, we pray for your guidance of our Evangelical ministry at St John's in Hampton.  We beseech you to increase our understanding and tolerance of those who have yet to find you, allowing our own lives to serve as examples of your love.  We also humbly seek your mercy to remind us what it is like to be new, and ask for your grace as we extend ourselves in service to those on the margins, as well as those in mainstream.  All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Christ & Grace, Petersburg
Most holy and gracious God, we give you hearty thanks for sustaining us as a vibrant congregation of worshipers and servants in Petersburg for nearly 175 years. We ask for your help and guidance as we plan meaningful ways to celebrate our past and seek new vision and empowerment for the years ahead. Refresh and renew us as the footprints of the past lead us into a spirit-filled future of offering hope, healing and hospitality to those both within the church and in the greater community. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and for ever. Amen.

ECW celebrates 125 years on May 16, honors founder Louisa Taylor Letcher

The ECW will honor its founder, Louisa Taylor Letcher, at the Spring Annual Meeting. Nancy Sands, ECW diocesan president, has declared May 16, Louisa Taylor Letcher Day, in observance of the ECW's 125th anniversary. In 1890, Louisa, a Norfolk resident, and her friend Sallie Stuart from Alexandria, organized the Women's Auxiliary of the Diocese of Virginia at St. Paul's parish in Norfolk. Louisa and Sallie served as co-presidents. When the Diocese of Southern Virginia was formed in 1892, Louisa continued as president in the newly-formed diocese until her death in 1920.

All women are invited to attend the ECW Spring Annual Meeting at Glebe Church in Suffolk May 16 to celebrate ECW's anniversary, meet Louisa Taylor Letcher in person, and to learn about "God Bless the Children," ECW's proposed 2015-16 outreach project, to benefit Jackson-Field Homes and Boys Home of Virginia. Ann E. Chaffins, Assistant Director of Development at Jackson-Feild Homes, and Megan-Drew Tiller, Church Relations, Boys Home of Virginia, will speak at the meeting. "This project is very important to me," Nancy said. "I feel we need to help give these young people a good start in life and let them know that someone cares about them." Your vote is important.
Glebe Rector, the Rev. Ross Keener, will officiate at Eucharist. Contact Louise Boss, ECW corresponding secretary, to register for the meeting, 757-678-5331 or louiseboss@exede.net, by May 9. The $12 registration fee includes lunch.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Climate Change Crisis Forum now available for viewing

Now available here is the Climate Change Crisis, presented by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society on March 24. Addressing one of the most significant topics in today's society, the 90-minute live webcast originated from Campbell Hall Episcopal School, North Hollywood, CA, in partnership with Bishop J. Jon Bruno and the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The forum was moderated by well-known climatologist Fritz Coleman of KNBC 4 television news.  Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori presented the keynote address. Two panels focused on specific areas of the climate change crisis: Regional Impacts of Climate Change; and Reclaiming Climate Change as a Moral Issue.

30 Days of Action
In addition to stimulating conversation and raising awareness about The Climate Change Crisis, the live webcast served as the kickoff to 30 Days of Action. A range of activities developed by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society are offered for individuals and congregations to understand the environmental crisis. The activities will culminate on Earth Day, April 22.  

Praying for the churches of Southern Virginia

As part of our liturgy at Annual Council 2015, each delegation wrote a prayer for their parish. We are sharing these prayers each week in the eNews so that we all can support one another in the upcoming year.

Emmanuel, Chatham
Heavenly Father, we acknowledge our struggle to be one body, the people you call us to be.  Fill us with your Spirit that we can love others as you love us.  Remove the blinders of our own desires so we may see and minister to the needs of others.  Cleanse us from us all bitterness, fear, vanity, and pride that we may truly listen with respect and speak with love.  Open our eyes to see the strengths of others and our own, even as you open our hearts to give and receive forgiveness for whatever weaknesses we find.  Keep before us awareness that this is your church and we your people, who are not just limited by our brokenness but empowered by your boundless love.  Allow us to see whatever discomfort we encounter can be the threshold to greater life.  We ask this, O Father, in the name of your Son and through the power of your Spirit, for only in your love alone can we find abundant life, both now and for ever.  Amen.

St. Cyprian's, Hampton
Almighty and Most Merciful Father, we thank you for all the blessings of this life. We thank you especially for St. Cyprian's Church and the Diocese of Southern Virginia. We ask you to guide us this year as we work to find more ways to serve our global village and local community. By your grace, equip us to feed the hungry, provide clothing for those in need, offer shelter to the disenfranchised and facilitate access to basic healthcare for those without voice or advocates. Give us the strength to persevere as we invite others to join us in our common life. Help us address the racial and class divisions in our nation that we all may be one. Lead us as we strengthen the faithful, find good and godly ways to restore the absent and open our doors to the stranger. Bless us so that we might move into new ways of being and doing for the sake of those who hunger for spiritual food and thirst for living water. All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. 

Jackson-Feild in need of folding tables

Jackson-Field Homes is in need of folding round tables. The Home hosts a number of events and outings in its gym which serves as a multipurpose building. These events include the annual prom, college and career day, Beautiful Me self-esteem program, wrapping party for Christmas presents, special luncheons and other events that are scheduled during the course of the year. These tables would also be used outdoors, weather permitting, for quarterly Bible school and other spiritual program activities, for field day, ice cream socials, cookouts and recreational activities.

If your church has unused tables and would like to donate them to Jackson-Feild please contact Ann Chaffins at 804-354-6929 or achaffins@jacksonfeild.org.

Communications Grants available

Communications Grants from the Diocese of Southern Virginia provide congregations within the diocese with funding for development of their communications efforts. Grant funds are intended to assist churches that do not currently make use of digital communications methods to create and implement a new digital communication program. Funds may also be used to assist churches with an existing digital communication program that have discovered needs within their congregation or community that can be addressed with a new digital communication initiative. Click here for more information and application.

Clergy Transitions

The Rev. Julia Messer began as Priest Associate at Eastern Shore Chapel, Virginia Beach, 2/1/2015

The Rev. Marguerite Alley, Deacon, left Emmanuel, Virginia Beach, 3/26/2015

The Rev. Alan Meade, Interim Rector, left Ascension, Norfolk 4/15/2015  

The Rev. Stewart Tabb will begin as Rector of Ascension, Norfolk 5/1/2015  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Praying for the churches of Southern Virginia

As part of our liturgy at Annual Council 2015, each delegation wrote a prayer for their parish. We are sharing these prayers each week in the eNews so that we all can support one another in the upcoming year.

St. Augustine's, Newport News
Almighty God, Creator of all that abide in the heavens and inhabit the earth, we the work of your hand praise you and adore you. You have revealed thorough Jesus Christ your son, our mission in the East End of Newport News and you call us to a ministry of love and care of your sheep. We thank you God for the benevolence you show to our community of faith; your grace allows us to open our doors to the least and the lonely, sharing your blessings with those whom you call, "my beloved children." Dear God, we ask that you support the congregation of St. Augustine's to do all that you ask us to do: proclaim your word, feed the hungry, visit the sick and those imprisoned, and to welcome the outcast and the lonely. We also prayerfully ask that you instill within our congregation the desire to become leaders within our church, for our community and the diocese of Sothern Virginia so that we may offer all that we are to your service. May we secure these blessings for all your children in the name of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Epiphany, Danville
Gracious and merciful God, We give you thanks for our abundant blessings and for the many gifts we receive daily, especially for those we neglect to acknowledge. We now bring before you our church, Epiphany Episcopal in Danville.  We ask forgiveness for our failure in this time of trial. Lead us out of our darkness. We ask for healing in each of our hearts.  Draw us closer together. We are very grateful that you have sent Becky to assist us in this difficult time. Continue to guide and direct her in the decisions to set us a right. And grant us the wisdom and courage to be one body so that we may truly and devoutly serve you. Hear our prayer for this parish family, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Learning to Live: An American Story

By The Rev. James W.H. Sell

"Learning to Live: An American Story" is the story of my journey through the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church. Much to my surprise, it was a life that suited my values and personality like no other. It began when the American culture was fueled by the norms and standards of institutional religion in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  

But from the time of my ordination in 1969 up until the present moment, we have watched international and American church worship life decline year after year. Today, almost all denominations and faiths are retracting into an uncertain future. It can be argued that at the current rate of decline, the entire religious enterprise in America has less than one hundred years of life remaining.  

Somehow, my life has run counter to the trends and demographic realities by which we have been surrounded. I discovered solid spiritual values that gave my life a sense of abundance. At the same time, every church I was a part of grew and flourished. So, contrary to the cries of the legions of naysayers, I am nothing if not hopeful. To be a Christian is to live with a sense that resurrections are at the very core of every history.  

I believe that, in very real ways, we are just getting ready to return to our most ancient roots, where, once again, on the fragile edge of society, we will become a steady pathway to an abundant life and, ultimately, the driving force for liberation and justice.

Learn more about the book at www.jameswhsell.com.  

Spring 4th Day Gathering at Chanco

The Cursillo Spring 4th Day Gathering will be May 9 at Chanco. Please join us in welcoming our new cursillistas with lunch, a witness talk, group reunion and more. Please bring your favorite spring dish to share. Get more information about Cursillo at www.cursillodsv.org.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bishop Hollerith's Easter Message 2015

Dear Friends in Christ,

In just a few days the sounds and sights of Easter will burst forth across the diocese. Churches from Jenkins Bridge on the Eastern Shore, to inner city Norfolk, to Danville in the West will celebrate the day that defines all the other days of our faith. Lilies will fill our sanctuaries with spring fragrance. The people of God will don their "Sunday finest" clothes. Bright colors will replace the darkened shades of Lent. Choirs will sing with particular exuberance. Clergy will once again say, "Alleluia" in the liturgy! Children will scatter across the green grass of our church yards in search of brightly colored eggs. Plates of chicken and brisket, country ham, corn pudding and green-leaf salad will cover picnic tables or parish kitchen counters. The young and the old, the regular attendee, and the rarely seen will gather to celebrate Easter. And it will all be special, it will all be good.

And behind it all will be the hope that keeps us coming back year after year, the belief that this ancient feast we celebrate is more than some mere observance of an unexplainable empty tomb. Behind it all is the hope that "Yes, it is true - He has risen indeed."

The story of the empty tomb is a strange story. It was a strange experience for Mary and the other women. It was and very much still is a story without precedent, something that stuns and astonishes.

In other words, neither I, nor any other teacher of the Gospels can explain Easter in a way that makes it reasonable or rational or easy to comprehend. It doesn't work like part of the Krebs cycle. It isn't from an Eastern wisdom teaching or a category of special literary devices. It just is what it is - an empty tomb.

The resurrection is shocking because it means ultimately that God accomplishes redemption in and through material reality, in and through the stuff that we are made of, in and through flesh and blood, in and through human life and human death. Resurrection in all its mystery suggests that at the most fundamental level of existence, from the quantum level to the biological level, to the level of the stars themselves, God is actively involved in his creation, that God is behind everything that we see, creating, nurturing and redeeming - as the Mystery of all mysteries.

If in my life I have come to understand the mystery of Easter at all, it isn't because of what I have come to know intellectually about it. My understanding of Easter comes from being a child of God, from being one who has been redeemed again and again from my own "Good Friday" experiences. Likewise, my understanding comes from witnessing the same miracle of redemption at work in the lives of others around me whom I love, care for and to whom I am privileged to minister. In fact, perhaps what I experience is not "understanding" in the classic sense of what that term means at all, but more of a kind of "knowing". After being gently and lovingly clobbered over the head time and time again by the grace of God, how could one not "know" about the resurrection?!

And something else I know is the promise that accompanies the empty tomb - that Jesus is not there, that he has gone to Galilee to meet his disciples. We are told that Galilee is "where the action is". In my experience, "the action" is where the Eucharist is being served. It's where children laugh and run wild through the grass while adults sit at tables enjoying ham biscuits, barbequed chicken wings and three types of iced tea.

This Easter I will think about all of you as you celebrate the mystery of the resurrection. And my heart will be warmed from knowing that the Lord has risen indeed because he has risen in parishes and places and faces across our diocese. And I will give thanks for you and for God's Church in the world, and for the power that binds us together in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ. And, above all, with great anticipation, I will be listening to hear - from every corner of Southern Virginia - your "Alleluias"!