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Massachusetts congregations band together in face of slow progress after gas explosions in Merrimack Valley


The Rev. Joel Almono embraces parishioners on their way out of Grace Church after the afternoon Eucharist on Nov. 4. Episcopal News Service Photo: David Paulsen.


[Episcopal News Service] Grace Church sits on the northern edge of a disaster zone, one that on first glance does not bear obvious signs of disaster. Traffic moves freely. Buildings stand firm. The Sunday afternoon service still draws dozens in this mostly immigrant congregation.

Life goes on in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover - but with difficulty and with rising complaints, nearly two months after a series of natural gas explosions killed one resident and left about 10,000 homes without gas service just as the weather began turning colder. Many of those residents, including some Grace Church parishioners, still have not been able to return to their homes, and the region's utility, Columbia Gas, announced recently it could not meet a mid-November deadline to have service restored to all customers.

That delay didn't come as a huge surprise, given the vast scope of the repairs needed, but "just reading and hearing it was a slap in the face," said Sadia Jiminian, a member of the congregation who has been living in a hotel with her family while they wait for completion of repairs to their home in Lawrence.

One bright spot has been the outpouring of support from Episcopalians around the Diocese of Massachusetts. "The prayers and concern of our entire diocesan family are with those in the Merrimack Valley communities affected by this disaster," Bishop Alan Gates said in a statement released Sept. 14 that called on congregations in the diocese to collect an offering for disaster relief.

The diocese announced Oct. 17 that it had raised $26,000. That total has since risen to $38,000. Grace Episcopal Church also received a $12,500 grant from Boston Episcopal Charitable Society to help residents meet immediate needs. The Rev. Joel Almono said the congregation so far had written 57 checks from the pool of relief money to cover a variety of needs, primarily food and medicine.



Welcome back!: Mass. missioners make return visit following readmission of Episcopal Church of Cuba


From left: Vicky Goss, Marta Rivera, Lucy Bixby and the Rev. John Beach 

in Cuba, Nov. 5-13. Courtesy Photo.


In a small town in Cuba, letters and pictures drawn by children at St. Paul's Church in Nantucket hang on a wall. They are the result of a partnership between two Diocese of Massachusetts parishes, St. Paul's Church in Nantucket and St. Luke's Church in Fall River, and Iglesia San Juan Evangelista (St. John the Evangelist Church) in Vertientes, Cuba--a welcome change for many in Cuba after years of isolation.

This is an exciting time for the Episcopal Church of Cuba. At General Convention this summer, the House of Bishops and House of Deputies voted unanimously to readmit the Episcopal Church of Cuba as a diocese of the Episcopal Church after it had been ousted by the House of Bishops in 1966 due to the geopolitics of the time.

A group of four from the Diocese of Massachusetts returned on Nov. 13 from an eight-day mission trip to Cuba: Lucy Bixby and Vicky Goss from St. Paul's, Nantucket; Marta Rivera from St. Peter's Church in Cambridge; and the Rev. John Beach, interim priest at St. Thomas's Church in Taunton. (Another committed partner, the Rev. Jim Hornsby of St. Luke's, Fall River, was unable to go.) The Massachusetts Episcopalians have previously taken trips to Cuba to build relationships with the community there as well as bring supplies and help with projects; they are currently raising money to help construct a new church building.

The Rev. Holly Hartman, Missioner for Global Partnerships, first got involved in this partnership when St. Paul's contacted her office about a grant and asked to have someone from diocesan staff accompany them on a trip in March to bring a water purification system to be installed.


Hartman explained that in addition to projects like the water purification system, the goal of this partnership and others like it is to deepen relationships among people.

Read more here.


Journey the "Way of Love" this Advent


Photo: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash.

Advent, beginning this year on Dec. 2, is the season of anticipation and preparation for Christ's birth, a time when the Episcopal Church's Book of Common Prayer petitions that God "give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light."

This year during Advent, Episcopalians are invited to journey the "Way of Love" together by moving through the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke. A four-part "Way of Love" Advent curriculum for use by groups is available on the Episcopal Church's website, as is an accompanying Advent calendar, which offers daily suggestions for engaging in the seven "Way of Love" practices: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. The calendar can be used as a stand-alone resource to keep at one's desk or on the fridge for use every day. Find it all here.



And, a lovely tradition continues: The 2018 Advent calendar created annually over the past 25 years by the Rev. Thomas Mousin of St. John's Church in Charlestown and colleague the Rev. Merry Watters, an artist retired from ministry in the United Methodist Church, is generously offered online for all to use and to share. Find it here. 



News Notes 

The Rev. Noble Scheepers of Trinity Church in Marshfield and retired bishop suffragan Bud Cederholm led the Diocesan Convention in song during a presentation on Massachusetts Indaba 2019. Photo: Bridget K. Wood. 


Celebrations highlight annual Diocesan Convention: Celebrations were the bookends to this year's annual Diocesan Convention, as it opened with a banquet marking the 30th anniversary of Bishop Barbara C. Harris's historic election as the first woman in the episcopate, and then closed with singing and dancing in response to the official admission of two new mission congregations--Grace Chapel in Brockton and the Ugandan congregation of St. Peter's Church in Waltham.

In between, the convention adopted resolutions on social justice concerns ranging from the church's response to the opioid crisis, immigrant justice, and support for gender identity antidiscrimination law in Massachusetts, to church use of fair trade coffee and a commitment to creation care through the planting of a "Paris Grove" of trees at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center.

The convention adopted the proposed 2019 diocesan budget of $8.8 million after a prolonged period of discussion, and, it voted to form a task force on ministry engagement with young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Convention-goers also learned more about Massachusetts Indaba 2019, a diocesan mission strategy initiative aimed at building relationships among congregations across the diocese through purposeful conversation and time spent in one another's contexts over three weekend encounters.

The convention was held Nov. 2-3 at the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center in Hyannis. Clergy and delegates--two from each congregation--convene annually for the Diocesan Convention, the diocese's primary governing body. 


Read more here.

* View the convention photo gallery here

* Find video and text of Bishop Alan M. Gates's annual address here.  

* Watch video from the celebration of Bishop Barbara C. Harris's 30th election anniversary here.

* Convention actions, including resolutions in final form, are summarized here.


Sign up soon for Massachusetts Indaba 2019: Friday, Nov. 30 is the deadline for congregations to register for Massachusetts Indaba 2019. Find the registration link and more information here.

A Diocesan Council working group has studied and recommended Indaba--a model for purposeful conversation, arising out of the southern African context, which has been used throughout the Anglican Communion--as a format for addressing the diocesan mission strategy goal of developing opportunities for building relationships. 

All worshiping communities in the diocese are invited and encouraged to participate in Massachusetts Indaba 2019. Each interested congregation or community will designate a four-person Indaba team to participate in the yearlong experience. The kick-off gathering takes place on Saturday, Jan. 12. 

Each Indaba team will be assigned to partner with two teams from other deaneries. Each of the congregations will take a turn as host to its partner teams over three Indaba Encounter weekends scheduled in 2019. The process concludes with a gathering of all the Indaba teams to share their experiences and hopes for the future. 

The Rev Marilyn McMillan--a deacon serving at St. David's Church in South Yarmouth--had the opportunity to experience the process while doing field education in the Diocese of New York at St. Mary's in Manhattanville. The parish hosted Indaba teams from upstate and shared with them the experience of making sandwiches and going out with shopping carts to distribute them throughout the city neighborhood.

"I thoroughly enjoyed that day and got a real understanding of the possibilities for getting acquainted with the different contexts that parishes are in, and so I became an enthusiast," McMillan said.

"One of the things I've noticed is that the skills that get developed as part of going through an Indaba process are the same kind of skills that are needed in a lot of different settings. It's very much relational muscle building," she said.


Courtesy photo.

New archdeacon appointed: The Rev. Christiaan A. Beukman has been appointed to serve as archdeacon, beginning Dec. 1. He succeeds the Rev. W. Michael Hamilton, who served as archdeacon for ordained vocations from March 2015 until September of this year. 


Beukman will serve alongside the Ven. Pat Zifcak, who continues as archdeacon for deacons in formation. Bishop Suffragan Gayle E. Harris has oversight of vocational deacons, and the two archdeacons share in their supervision and in the process toward ordination. They meet regularly to coordinate plans, share information, provide pastoral care and ongoing ministry development for the vocational deacons. Read more here.




A family joins a caravan as it leaves Plaza Salvador del Mundo on Oct. 31. 

Episcopal News Service Photo: Lynette Wilson.

NGO with Episcopal ties addresses forced displacement from Central America: Families with small children, single mothers and their babies, young men and women, adolescents, the elderly, they all gathered on a late October morning at the Plaza Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador to form a caravan and begin the long walk north through El Salvador, across Guatemala and Mexico, and, for some, eventually, to the U.S. border. It was the second of three caravans to depart that day from the plaza, where a statue features Jesus Christ, savior of the world, standing atop planet Earth. The caravans leaving El Salvador followed one that departed Honduras earlier in the month. The caravans' size and visibility break with the paradigm of clandestine border crossings sometimes aided by human smugglers, according to Nov. 16 coverage by Episcopal News Service.

"What's changed about immigration is it's no longer a lone Mexican crossing the border to find a job. It's Central American children and families showing up at the border applying for asylum or trying to find protection," said Noah Bullock, an Episcopal Church-appointed missionary and the executive director of Cristosal, the independent non-governmental organization that began in 2000 as a partnership between Episcopal clergy in the U.S. and El Salvador. Read the full Episcopal News Service story here

The Episcopal Church's Washington, D.C.-based Office of Government Relations has compiled "A Faithful Response to the Caravan: Five Things to Know." Find it here.


Episcopalians connect, deepen community amid devastating wildfires: California Episcopalians--still reeling from the deadliest wildfires in the state's history--say they are gathering strength and resilience through community connections and an outpouring of love and concern from across the Episcopal Church, according to a Nov. 15 Episcopal News Service report.

St. John's Church in Chico has become a hub for recovery activity and is ready to shelter the displaced, the rector, the Rev. Richard Yale, said in the story, adding that he was amazed that St. Nicholas's Church in nearby Paradise sustained only superficial damage. "It was right there, in the heart of what was burning, and it's still here." As for the rest of the city of 26,000: "Paradise is gone. There's no infrastructure left," Yale said.

Similarly, in Southern California, more than a dozen church members and preschool families lost their Malibu area homes in the Woolsey and Hill fires, but St. Aidan's Church was untouched, according to the rector, the Rev. Joyce Stickney. While checking on parishioner's homes, "that's when you started weeping," she said. "You'd see a neighborhood and one home is standing and looked like there wasn't even a fire. The next home is completely burned to the ground"

Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the affected dioceses to coordinate with local congregations to provide emergency support. Read the Episcopal News Service story here.


Presiding bishop joins statement of concern for East Jerusalem hospital funding: 

Presiding Bishop Curry during a hospital visit in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem earlier this year.  Episcopal News Service Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg.

On Nov. 1, Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry, on behalf of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops, along with the presiding bishop and Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committees on International Justice and Peace and Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued a statement addressing concerns about the Trump administration's apparent decision to end further humanitarian assistance to hospitals in East Jerusalem--including two that are Episcopal-Anglican: St. John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital and Princess Basma Rehabilitation Centre.

"We consider them integral parts of our common commitment to ministry in the Holy Land. These hospitals provide life-saving and, in some cases, unique forms of health care not available otherwise to Palestinians," the statement said. "It is difficult for us to understand why this humanitarian assistance is being brought to a halt, given that lives are being threatened unnecessarily." Find the full statement here. 


Courtesy photo.

Newtonville rector elected bishop: The Rev. Mark D.W. Edington, Rector of St. John's Church in Newtonville, was elected on Oct. 20 as bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe. The election took place during the convocation's annual convention held at All Saints Church in Waterloo, Belgium. "We are delighted and proud at the news of this election," Bishop Alan M. Gates said in a statement issued that day. "Mark has served faithfully and done notable work in empowering the ministry of all the baptized. Our prayers are with Mark, his spouse, Judy, the people of St. John's Church, Newtonville, and the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe." Pending consent of a majority of the Episcopal Church's diocesan standing committees and bishops with jurisdiction, the consecration is scheduled to take place on April 6 at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris. Read more here.


New chapter for EDS@Union:  The Rev. Canon Edie Dolnikowski, Canon for Ordained Vocations, represented Bishop Alan M. Gates and the Diocese of Massachusetts at the inaugural convocation of Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) at Union in New York City on Oct. 31. Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry gave the sermon, and the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas was installed as dean.  Video of the service is available courtesy of Trinity Church Wall Street, here. Episcopal Divinity School closed and sold its Cambridge, Mass., campus and last spring affiliated with Union Theological Seminary in New York, in a partnership that allows EDS to continue providing Episcopal theological education within an accredited, degree-granting seminary.



Las Posadas: Join Bishop Gayle E. Harris and the congregation of St. Luke's-San Lucas Church (201 Washington Street) in Chelsea on Sunday, Dec. 16, 6:30-9 p.m., for Las Posadas, a traditional Advent event in which those gathered will trace Mary and Joseph's traveling search for shelter. This is a bilingual and multicultural celebration with processions, music, food and hospitality. As the group celebrates this story from the Christian tradition, it will hold close in heart and mind the serious situation of modern-day refugees seeking shelter. 


According to diocesan youth missioner the Rev. H. Mark Smith, at least one congregation, St. Michael's Church in Milton, plans to bring its Confirmation class. The event is free, but advance registration is important to ensure enough food for all. Sign up here. Pictured: Statues of the Holy Family carried in last year's procession.  File photo.


Recovery Eucharists:

A Recovery Eucharist with Healing is being celebrated each Friday afternoon at Emmanuel Church (15 Newbury Street) in Boston. The service is at 3:30 p.m. in the Lindsey Chapel and draws from the 12 Steps and the liturgy of the Episcopal Church. All people struggling with or in recovery from any form of addiction are invited to participate. For more information, please contact the Emmanuel Church office at 617-536-3355, the Rev. Elise Feyerherm at or the Rev. Susan Ackley at

Additional Recovery Eucharists offered around the diocese include: 

*St. Chrystostom's Church, Quincy: Monthly Recovery Eucharist the second Saturday of every month at 1 p.m. 

*Grace Church, Norwood: Monthly Recovery Eucharist the first Monday of every month at 6 p.m. 

*All Saints' Church, Whitman: Monthly Recovery Evening Prayer the last Wednesday of every month at 7  p.m. 


Building relationships in stewardship season:  St James's Church in Groveland and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Reading collaborated on stewardship this fall. The Rev. Brian Raiche of Good Shepherd led a leadership dinner and then preached at St James's, with Good Shepherd volunteers helping with the celebration meal, and then St. James's Church did likewise for Good Shepherd. "We had an awesome time, our folks got to experience churches outside our community and it was truly lovely," reported the Rev. Kit Lonergan of St. James's Church.  Pictured:  Stewardship season celebration meal at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Reading, with helpers from St. James's Church, Groveland.  Courtesy photo.



Boston Globe: Old North Church rededicates memorial honoring fallen U.S., British troops: The solemn martial music of a bagpipe and a bugle wafted through the serpentine lanes of the North End Saturday morning, Nov. 17, as veterans, clergy, congregants and passersby paid tribute to the fallen from the nation's latest wars. The group of about 50 gathered behind Old North Church for the rededication of a memorial to service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the unveiling of bronze plaques honoring American and British fighters who gave their lives in war.


Speakers reflected on recent casualties, as well as those lost in earlier conflicts, such as World War I, which was remembered as Veterans Day marked the 100th anniversary of combat's end. The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, suggested in a prayer that "the history of our Anglo-American heritage reminds us that our hostilities do cease, and that enmity can be transformed into bonds of deepest friendship."

Read more here.


WBUR News: Columbia Gas pledges to promote energy efficiency in affected Merrimack Valley homes: Columbia Gas announced a targeted effort to replace condemned appliances in the approximately 8,000 Merrimack Valley homes affected by September's gas explosions and fires with energy-efficient models, where possible, at no cost to customers. 

Some religious leaders see this an issue of environmental justice. Susan Almonó, who ministers to the congregation of Grace Church in Lawrence with her husband, the Rev. Joel Almonó, was one of 19 Merrimack Valley faith leaders who signed an Oct. 9 letter to Governor Charlie Baker and the CEOs of Columbia Gas and NiSource, asking, among other things, for energy-efficient replacement appliances.

Read more here.


Cape Cod Times: Sandwich forum focuses on spiritual collaboration in efforts to fight global warming: An effort to combine science and religion to move Cape Codders and Islanders to act, given the potentially catastrophic worldwide warming of the atmosphere, began in an intimate church sanctuary on Main Street. "Those manifestations of climate change may not be apparent but they're there," said Woods Hole Research Center President and Executive Director Philip Duffy on Sunday at St. John's Church. Wildfires on the West Coast are a very good example, Duffy said. "A lot of people don't recognize that for what it is, because they say we've always had wildfires, which is true, but not like that."

Read more here.


MassLive: Massachusetts Episcopal bishops, Catholic leaders decry deadly synagogue attack: The bishops of the two Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts were among the religious leaders issuing statements of support to the victims of the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue during a baby-naming ceremony that killed 11 people and injured six, including four police officers.


The statement from bishops Douglas J. Fisher, Alan M. Gates and Gayle E. Harris also pushed back on President Donald Trump's statement that the "results would have been far better" if the targeted Tree of Life synagogue had hired an armed guard. "A ceremony celebrating new life has become the latest setting for the murderous intersection of bigotry, religious hatred and easy access to lethal weapons," the bishops' statement reads.


"We extend our deepest condolences, solidarity and kinship to our sisters and brothers at the Tree of Life synagogue and to the wider Jewish community throughout the nation upon the massacre today in Pittsburgh." It adds in part, "As people of faith, we also decry suggestions that the solution to such violence is further violence."

Read more here.


South Coast Today: St. Martin's food bank: With the cold weather approaching quickly, the church's Food and Pet Pantry is gearing up for a busy season. It is open from 10 to 11 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month. The Rev. Scott Ciosek, also pastor of St. Peter's Church in Dartmouth, said that no one in need is turned away from the food pantry. "All they need is one form of ID," he said.


Senior warden Libby Davenport began looking into the establishment of a food pantry on 2003 and in November it will have been in operation 15 years."The parishioners bring in the pet food," she said. "I order 1,000 pounds of food from the Boston Food Bank."


"I remember the first night of distribution, we had 11 people," she said. "Now we average about 45 to 50 families per month."

Read more here.


Wicked Local Brookline: Are millennials becoming less religious? Not in Brookline: According to national statistics, the forecast does not look bright for religious houses, as far more millennials--those in their 20s and 30s--are seldom or infrequently attending religious services than Americans in older generations. In Brookline however, religious houses like St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, St Paul's Episcopal Church and Congregation Kehillath Israel seem to be bucking that trend.

Read more here.




Coming Up 


Nov 30: Annual Christmas Fair, Christ Church Quincy, Quincy, 5:00pm

Dec 1: Global Partnerships: Haiti Network Meeting, Church of the Good Shepherd, Reading, 10:00am

Dec 2: Bishop Harris visits St. Mary's Church, Dorchester, 9:00am

Dec 2: Fleming Rutledge preaches at Church of the Advent, Boston, 9:00am 

Dec 6: Diocesan Council Meeting, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:30pm

Dec 9: Bishop Gates visits St. James's Church, Amesbury, 9:00am

Dec 12: Messiah Sing, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:00pm

Dec 13: Budget Committee Meeting, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 8:00am

Dec 16: Bishop Gates visits St. John's Church, Charlestown, 9:00am

Dec 16: Bishop Harris visits St. Paul's Church, Brookline, 9:00am

Dec 16: Advent Las Posadas, St. Luke's-San Lucas, Chelsea, 6:00pm

Dec 19: Evening Contemplative Eucharist, Bethany House of Prayer, Arlington, 7:00pm  







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