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"Second chances and greater safety": MA bishops voice support for sentencing reform 


At its June 19 hearing, the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony on a range of proposed criminal justice reform measures focused on sentencing and correctional services.  The Rt. Rev. Douglas J. Fisher, Bishop of the Diocese of Western Massachusetts,  attended the hearing, and the following statement is based on his prepared testimony, adding the support of the bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates and the Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris.

Bishops and others from the two Episcopal dioceses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently had the opportunity to visit Dismas House in Worcester and Dismas Family Farm in Oakham. The house and the farm are named for the Good Thief in the Gospel of Luke. Dismas is one of two criminals crucified next to Jesus. He asks Jesus to remember him when he enters paradise. Dismas accepts personal responsibility for the wrongs he has committed, yet believes that God can save anyone. His last breath is a leap of faith.  

One of us also recently had the opportunity to meet with inmates and conduct the Rite of Confirmation at the Devens federal correctional facility. The men we met recently at Dismas Farm and Devens are like Dismas. Many speak honestly about the impact of drugs and alcohol on their lives, their failures to "get clean" or "stay sober."  Most importantly, they acknowledge that their actions have had consequences for society and for those who love them. Those at the farm, they spend their days tending a harvest that will feed the local community. They have the chance to do good again, to feel connected to the needs of others. We experienced men who own their failure but who believe their lives are meant for something better. We experienced hope. 



The Rev. Pamela Werntz

"The steadiness of showing up": 

20 years in prison ministry  


For almost 20 years, the Rev. Pamela Werntz, rector of Emmanuel Church, Boston, has been spending her Monday nights in prison.  She is the creator of the art and spirituality program at the Suffolk County House of Correction at South Bay, a volunteer ministry that provides time, space and supplies for incarcerated women to make greeting cards for their family members, or simply draw and color.  


This year, Werntz has taken a step back from running the operations of the program, handing over most of the administration to the Rev. Amanda March, parish administrator at Emmanuel and a transitional deacon. Nineteen years after starting the program, Werntz reflected back upon her ministry at South Bay.  


"I started the program because most of the women who are incarcerated have minor children, and don't have a way to communicate with their families that's meaningful," Werntz said.  "Many children don't even know where their mothers are, their mothers are ashamed to tell them. For the children the mothers are just gone. So this is a spiritually supportive setting for women to make cards, to color, to draw, to write letters." 


The sessions begin and end with the volunteers and women from the prison gathered in a circle for prayer. At the beginning of the evening, everyone says her own name, and at the end each woman shares the names of the persons for whom she made a card. 


"It's a way of saying, this is who is on my mind," Werntz said. "Focusing on the card is a little less intimate than saying, 'the person who has been on my mind is my two-year-old daughter.' It already prompts tears, but it's a little easier to focus on the card than on the person they're missing." 



African clergy bring churches together for first-ever Confirmation celebration 


Bishop Gates confirmed 20 young people from four congregations: Christ Church in Hyde Park, St. Stephen's in Lynn, St. Peter's Anglican Church at Christ Church in Waltham, and the hosting church, Grace Church in Everett. 

It was a full house at Grace Church in Everett on June 18 and a historic occasion--the first-ever Confirmation service coordinated by the African Clergy Caucus in the Diocese of Massachusetts. 


Bishop Alan M. Gates was there to confirm 20 young people from four congregations with African diaspora members:  Christ Church in Hyde Park, St. Stephen's Church in Lynn and St. Peter's Anglican Church at Christ Church in Waltham, in addition to Grace Church, Everett. 


Nearly 350 people participated in the liturgy and celebratory feast that followed.

It was the feast day of Bernard Mizeki, who became a Christian through the mission work of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, worked as a missionary teacher in Mashonaland, in what is now Zimbabwe, and was murdered because of his faith on June 18, 1896.  His body is said to have disappeared in a bright light and the rushing sound of wings.  Every year a huge Anglican festival is held near the place of his death to mark the anniversary of his martyrdom.



The Rev. Silvestre Romero elected bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Guatemala

The Rev. Silvestre Romero

The Rev. Silvestre Romero, Rector of St. Peter's-San Pedro Church in Salem, was elected bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Guatemala during its May 26-27 convention held atthe Catedral de Santiago Apóstol in Guatemala City.  Pending the consent process, Romero will succeed the current bishop, the Rt. Rev. Armando Guerra.

"We rejoice at Silvestre's election in Guatemala, and extend our prayers for their future partnership as diocese and bishop.  Silvestre and his family will be greatly missed here in the Diocese of Massachusetts," Bishop Alan M. Gates said.



Calling all young leaders: YLA kick-off week is  July 23-28 


Know a young leader whom the church needs to raise up? 

For more than 20 years, the Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) in the Diocese of Massachusetts has gathered rising 9th and 10th graders for this one-year leadership program to discern how their gifts and abilities can meet the needs and concerns of their community--and then create a plan to take action to meet those needs.

YLA members have taken on projects focused on issues ranging from environmental stewardship and housing and homelessness, to developing LGBTQ resources for high school students and support for early childhood education.

One major strength of the YLA program, according to diocesan youth ministry staff, is the realization it fosters in participants that they have the ability to make a difference. 

For most YLA members, the experience starts with the specially designed week at the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center in Greenfield, N.H.--this year running July 23-28.  Then, from September 2017 to May 2018, the YLA group will meet for a series of four overnight working sessions and several other strategic planning gatherings hosted at the participants' home parishes and led by youth development professionals and mentors. The working sessions are times for practicing leadership techniques, building community among peers and grounding the whole experience in faith and worship.

There is still time to register for the July YLA kick-off week via  Participation in the kick-off week is not a commitment to the yearlong program; similarly, those who can't make the kick-off week can still apply for the full-year program.  Find more information here.




River pilgrimage underway: New England Episcopalians have embarked on a spiritual journey of renewal, restoration and reconciliation, shaped around a series of activities along

the Connecticut River.  The Episcopal dioceses of New England, the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the nonprofit Kairos Earth, along with other regional partners, have officially set off on their 40-day "pilgrimage" along the length of the Connecticut River, concluding on July 9.


Bishop Alan M. Gates plans to join the pilgrimage for the Springfield to Hartford segment of the trip, July 3-5. 


A core group of "river pilgrims" will journey the full length of the river, being joined by "daily pilgrims" as they traverse individual stretches and by "pilgrims in prayer" for those who aren't able to paddle along or join in events but want to participate in the spiritual practices that correspond with the pilgrimage dates.


Locally organized, shore-based, events are being planned to draw attention to the beauty and challenges-ecological, social, economic and spiritual-along the waterway.  People of all faiths and paths are welcome. To follow along in prayer and to subscribe to e-mail updates, click here


Transitional deacons ordained: 


Bishop Gayle E. Harris ordained six transitional deacons on Saturday, June 3 at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston. Pictured with her, from top left, they and their sponsoring congregations are: The Rev. Daniel Bell, St. Stephen's Church in Lynn, The Rev. Emily Garcia, Episcopal Chaplaincy at Harvard, The Rev. Patrick LaFortune, St. Stephen's Church in Lynn, The Rev. Amanda March, St. Paul's Church in Brookline, The Rev. Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, St. Stephen's Church in Cohasset, and The Rev. Duncan Hilton, Church of the Good Shepherd in Watertown. 








































Cathedral services in Spanish: The Cathedral Church of St. Paul will begin offering La Santa Misa/Holy Eucharist in Spanish at 12 p.m. on Wednesdays, beginning on June 28. The Rev. Edgar Gutierrez-Duarte will celebrate, with the Rev. Ema Rosero-Nordalm, the Rev. Nancy Gossling and the Rev. Bryan Pearson assisting. Services will be held in St. John's Chapel. All are welcome.  


Parish Circuit

Food for Kids delivers needed nutrition to Cape Cod children: Four years after they first began delivering brown-bag lunches to local children, volunteers at the Food for Kids program at Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans are planning to serve 35,000 meals this summer, reaching kids in all eight towns of lower/outer Cape Cod. Food for Kids helps fill the 

Volunteers packing lunches at Church of the Holy Spirit, Orleans. 

gaps for the many Cape Cod children who rely on the federal free and reduced lunch program during the school year. Between June 25 and August 25, Food for Kids will deliver daily lunches, breakfasts, snacks and in one case dinners to 14 sites on Cape Cod. 


This year, founder Ruth Campbell has stepped away from the day to day operations of the program, and is focusing on outreach. Long-time Food for Kids volunteer Brenda Ridgeway and Church of the Holy Spirit Rector the Rev. Anne Koehler are now co-directors, leading the large operation of 100 volunteers who prepare, pack, and deliver meals. The program has also hired a program director, who during the school year works in the regional public schools lunch program.  Read more.


150th celebrated in Ipswich: North Shore Episcopalians gathered with Bishop Gayle E. Harris on Ascension Day to help Ascension Memorial Church in Ipswich celebrate its 150th anniversary.  Choirs from Ascension, St. John's Church in Gloucester and St. Andrew's Church in Marblehead sang, and a festive reception followed.


Photo: Deborah Gardner Walker





This week is a hungry week:  Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton have called

for prayer, advocacy and fasting for hunger awareness on the 21st of each month--the day by which 90 percent of SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) benefits have been used, causing families to experience the last week of the month as a hungry week.  Participating organizations, including Episcopal Relief & Development are inviting people to use social media to share images of their empty plates, with an inspirational quote or prayer, using the hashtags #ForSuchATime and #PrayFastAct.


'People have got to live boldly':  Bishop Barbara C. Harris celebrated her 87th birthday onJune 12, and Episcopal News Service marked the occasion with an interview on diversity in the episcopacy.  "People have got to live boldly," Harris says. "That's what ministry in any capacity, lay or ordained, is all about." Read more. 


Have a project aimed at caring for God's creation?:  The Episcopal Church's Advisory Council for the Stewardship of Creation is accepting applications for its next round of grants in support of "faith-based projects for mitigating climate change and safeguarding the integrity of creation."  Find more information here.  The application deadline is Aug. 20.


Scheduling note: 

E-news takes its summer break in July, and will return in time for fall news. The deadline for September E-news is Sept. 11. Questions? Please contact




Coming Up 


Jun 22: Family Camp 2017, Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, Greenfield, NH 

Jun 24: Film Screening: "13th", St. John's Church , Jamaica Plain, 3:00pm

Jul 1: Marblehead Arts Festival: Lobster Lunch, Tours, Exhibit, St. Michael's Church, Marblehead 

Jul 2: Marblehead Arts Festival: Lobster Lunch, Tours, Exhibit, St. Michael's Church, Marblehead 

Jul 4: Marblehead Arts Festival: Lobster Lunch, Tours, Exhibit & Concert, St. Michael's Church, Marblehead

Jul 7: Retreat: Reimagining the Holy Trinity (with Bishop Alan Gates), Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield 

Jul 8: St. John's Coffeehouse: Pianist Shizue Sano, St. John's Church, Arlington, 7:30pm

Jul 10: Episcopal Youth Event (EYE17), University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK

Jul 14: Labyrinth Walk, Church of the Holy Spirit, Orleans, 10:00am

Jul 15: Art Auction, St. Mary of the Harbor Church, Provincetown, 5:30pm

Jul 20: Spiritual Spa Day, Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield, 9:00am

Jul 21: Retreat: Enneagram Personality Types: Spiritual Growth and Relationships, Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield

Jul 23: Youth Leadership Academy Launch Week, Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, Greenfield, NH

Aug 4: Retreat: The Spirituality and Practice of the Jesus Movement, Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield 

Aug 7: The Adelynrood School for Spiritual Direction: Direction of Diverse Populations and Director Self-Care, Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield

Aug 9: Retreat: Sibling Rivalry of Biblical Proportions, Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield, 9:00am

Aug 21: A Week of Space to Create: Come for one day, two, or more , Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield

Aug 24: Quiet Day: Walking in the Spirit: Step by Step, Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center, Byfield 9:00am







June 26, 2017
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