Celebrating Pauli Murray

In cooperation with Province I, we hosted an evening with Rosita Stevens-Holsey, neice of the late Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray. If you were unable to make it, a recording is available here: https://vimeo.com/949955953?share=copy

There are two book studies on offer if you are interested in taking a deeper dive:

  • Emily Keniston plans to offer a two-part book study for young people (book ages recommended are 10-14): one on June 12th and the other on June 19th both from 7-8 PM on Zoom. The sign up form is here. Another youth minister (and high school English teacher!) has agreed to work jointly to share this offering. We will break the book into roughly two parts, and participants will do their honest best to read the assigned pages prior to the discussion. Let Emily know if you have any questions! ekeniston@episcopalmaine.net

 

  • Song in A Weary Throat: Writing & Reading with the Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray

Join Canon D Littlepage and Canon Sarah Woodford of ECCT for a creative writing book study of Song in A Weary Throat. Every second Thursday from August to December 2024, we will gather over Zoom from 7-8 PM ET and discuss 90 pages of this Pauli Murray classic. Canon Sarah will also provide you with creative writing prompts before each session to help you more deeply engage with the material. Feel free to share the writing that comes from these prompts during our session, or create a larger essay from them, or just keep them to yourself! For more information, please contact swoodford@episcopalct.org.

To keep up with Rosita Stevens-Holsey and activities surrounding the memory of Rev. Murray, follow @preservingpaulimurray on Instagram, go to her website at www.preservingpaulimurray.com, and to https://paulimurraycenter.networkforgood.com/. You may purchase Rosita’s book at https://a.co/d/hIYRGl4, or stream the film “My Name is Pauli Murray” at https://www.amazon.com/My-Name-Pauli-Murray/dp/B09DMPMWCP.

Maggi Dawn to Lead Clergy Retreat, Become Episcopal Church Priest on March 16

On March 16 from 9 a.m. to noon, the Rev. Maggi Dawn — an English theologian, professor, and author — will lead a retreat for clergy at St. Columba’s, Middletown. Through small groups, worship installations, and quiet time, participants will explore biblical stories of wilderness, including Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and stories about Elijah, Noah and Moses. Clergy can register online.

“Marcel Proust wrote that when we read someone else’s story, we are really reading about ourselves,” Dawn writes. “And all of these biblical wilderness stories act as a lens to read our own lives—our encounter with God, discerning and developing our vocations, how to deal with doubts and regrets, and how to handle life and ministry when God seems far away.”

The retreat will also mark a milestone for Dawn, who has been a Church of England priest for 24 years. During the day in Middletown, she will sign the Oath of Conformity required by Article VIII of the Episcopal Church’s Constitution and become a priest of the Diocese of Rhode Island. Bishop Knisely has named her diocesan theologian of the diocese.

Dawn’s relationship with the Diocese of Rhode Island began when she was associate professor of theology and literature and associate dean of Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School from 2011 to 2019. During the pandemic, former students invited her to preach, lead bible studies, and even attend online coffee hours.

“Parishes here were trying out creative ways to keep their worship lively during the pandemic, and although online worship had its limits, one of the unique features was the way it linked people up across the miles,” she said. Once lockdown restrictions eased, Dawn served as resident theologian at Emmanuel Church, Newport.

Having served both at Yale and as principal of St Mary’s College at the University of Durham, England, where she remains a professor in the Department of Theology and Religion, Dawn recognizes distinct strengths in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church.

“The Church of England does certain things beautifully — they are renowned for tradition and ritual, and the choral tradition, for instance,” she says. “One of the most fascinating posts I held was as the chaplain of King’s College, Cambridge, where I learned more about Christmas than I knew possible!

“On the other hand, the Episcopal Church has far more readily found its way to making substantial changes that the Church of England still struggles to reconcile. It’s far easier, for instance, for a woman to have a priestly ministry in the United States. The Church of England ordained women 30 years ago this year, but there are still various provisos in place to ensure that there are parishes that can refuse a woman in Holy Orders. One of the things I enjoy in the States is that I never have to waste any energy justifying my existence, and I can simply get on with the work God has called me to do.”

As diocesan theologian, Dawn will teach, preach and lead occasional programs for laypeople and clergy. “I am so delighted to have been welcomed by the Diocese of Rhode Island into a whole new chapter of ministry!” she says. “It is such a pleasure to have begun working with the clergy, staff, and congregations of the diocese. So far it has been a journey of relationship-building, and I am looking forward to developing this further.”

EfM EDUCATION FOR MINISTRY…are you being called?

My name is Jacki Zahn and I’m a parishioner at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville. I wanted to give you a little information on Education for Ministry.

I love learning new things, especially History. Because I never got the chance to go to college after high school, I went “later in life” and graduated from Rhode Island College at the age of 56 with a History Major.

As a former Roman Catholic, I took an Inquirer’s class with my Episcopalian friend Betsy at Christ Church in Lincoln. I attended another one at Calvary Church when my husband and I were received into the Episcopal church.

I yearned to learn more about my faith, spirituality, and the history of the church so when Rev. Susan Carpenter, at a women’s retreat years ago, informed us about EfM, I knew I was being called. I started the four-year program with mentor Donna Tornatore at Trinity Church in North Scituate.

It was a “life changing” time in my life. The first year was a challenge, studying the Old Testament, writing a spiritual autobiography, and acknowledging that the “black and white” in my life was in fact “gray”.

EfM is a four-year learning certificate program of the University of the South (Sewanee). It was started in 1975; it encompasses study, worship, and theological reflection in a small group setting. I finished my four-year program in December of 2018 and completed my mentor training in March 2023.

I will be co-mentoring EfM starting in September at Trinity Church in North Scituate with Phyllis Spaziano (who completed her program with me). We will be keeping the group small, 6 to 8 members and meeting on Saturday mornings. The concentrations for the four-year program are: Year 1, Old Testament; Year 2, New Testament; Year 3, Church History and Year 4, Spirituality/Theology. The cost of the program is $325 annually plus the cost of books. (If the cost is an issue, there are some there are some grant opportunities available.)

I’ve been praying for you over the past few months…are you being called? If you want to learn more join us for an EfM Open House at Trinity, North Scituate, Saturday, April 6 from 10 am – noon.

-Jacki Zahn

The Rev. Della Wager Wells Reflects on the “Come and See” Ministry of the Compass Rose Society

Recently the Rev. Della Wager Wells, rector of Emmanuel, Newport, talked with Nancy Bryan of Canticle Communications about her fifteen years of ministry with the Compass Rose Society, an organization founded in 1997 that supports the programs and ministries of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the organization that sets the goals and direction for the Communion. 

photo of The Rev. Della Wager Wells
The Rev. Della Wager Wells

NB:
I would love to hear a bit about your background and particularly about how you became involved in Compass Rose. How did you learn about the organization, how far back does it go in your life?

Della Wager Wells:
Those two things are inextricably linked. This wasn’t my initial trajectory, unless you go way back to my childhood when at the age of seven I told my mother I wanted to be a Jesuit priest, and she said that was really one of the things that was off the list for me. She hadn’t told me I couldn’t do things before, so that was unusual. I’d read a children’s biography about Jesuit work and the famous Jesuits who were at work as professors and doctors and lawyers and innovators and people who really went to the intersection of God in the world. They didn’t go off and pray on behalf of others in monasteries. They were right out with the people doing the things.

At that time, I couldn’t have become an Episcopal priest, either, although weirdly and coincidentally, my great-uncle, Bishop Robert L. DeWitt, then retired bishop of Pennsylvania, was, with Bishops Daniel Corrigan and Edward Welles, censured by the House of Bishops for ordaining the first eleven women in Philadelphia in 1974.

I was 14 at the time of their ordination and the idea of priesthood still hadn’t presented itself to me. I had church on my mind and was very much an Episcopalian, so I did the next best thing and I went to law school and became a lawyer working in nonprofit finance — public projects that yielded public good — for about thirty years.

In around 2008 I was senior warden at All Saints’, Atlanta. As I was retiring, my rector, Geoffrey Hoare, invited me to go to the upcoming Compass Rose meeting in Canterbury to represent All Saints’, Atlanta. I said, yes, and besides would also go on the follow-on Compass Rose pilgrimage to the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Everybody thought I was a little crazy to go when I didn’t know anyone, but I went to the other side of the world where everything from the temperature of the air, to the currency, to the language, to everything about the cultural context, was different. It felt like the noise level dropped and all of a sudden what was important was how we were alike instead of how we were different. And that was my epiphany.

I realized at that point that that was what I was supposed to be doing, and I started to take one seminary course every semester while still practicing law full-time. When I finally retired in 2015 and went to Yale Divinity School, I actually had a full year to my credit, although I didn’t use it because I loved divinity school. It was the Compass Rose Society that helped me see that I was made to be a missionary and that I needed to be working in the same area, but with a different client, for God.

After I graduated, I had a fellowship in Jerusalem for a year, before returning to the States to begin my work at Emmanuel, where I’ve been ever since.

NB:
And how has your work with Compass Rose continued?

DWW:
Actively, in that I never am far separated from it, and it infuses everything that we do here at Emanuel. Even in the most parochial context, as I said earlier, it’s when we see ourselves in another whole context and see what is really essential about us that we understand ourselves most fully. …

The Compass Rose Society is not a fundraising entity or a relief and development entity. We have other avenues for that. We have Episcopal Relief & Development, we have the Anglican Alliance, and others. The Compass Rose Society is what removes barriers to relationship.

The origin story of Compass Rose is that then-Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey visited South Sudan in 1994. When the Archbishop’s staff asked the primate’s representatives how many people would come for communion, the response was, oh, we won’t have communion. Upon further conversation, the archbishop’s staff was told that it was “because we have no bread, we have no wine.” Back at Lambeth Palace, George Carey summoned everybody into his office and just said, fix this, fix this.

And so the Compass Rose Society was formed. Our fundraising is to help the Anglican Communion Office operate in aid of the mission of connection of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the global Communion: to somehow get the bread and the wine there. And that’s essentially what we do.

NB:
I’m wondering how you’ve seen your parish and the diocese of Rhode Island benefit from these relationships that Compass Rose makes possible.

DWW:
I think these relationships help us to see that we’re not alone and to connect in critical times, such as the climate crisis, to those who suffer most even while having the least impact. At Emmanuel, I’ve tried to help us see and connect to the land. For example, we started a community garden up in the churchyard.

As we harvested the garden’s produce, we brought the tomatoes forward at the offertory. I talked about how that is very East African — that produce and honey and goats and chickens, they all come forward at the offertory. People bring their offerings of their produce, and then auction them off afterwards with that income becoming an offering to the church. And so, we at Emmanuel brought the produce from our garden forward for blessing. The time, the riches, our gifts are not only the bread and the wine and the money that comes forward, but also what we’re growing together in community, which includes relationship, concern about responding in love, all of those things.

We’ve also had visitors. Bishop Emmanuel Bwatta of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika in ACT has visited us and preached here, along with others from around the Communion, particularly last year while I was on medical leave. I had friends from all over the Communion coming in to preach. I think that the parish has come to understand themselves better by seeing that our experiences are not normative of the rest of the Communion. We explore and see what our traditions mean to us by seeing them as different from others and understanding better what they are.

Even something like the use of liturgical colors. I talk a lot about how Jesus is not quoted in any of the four gospels and none of the ancient mothers and fathers of the faith wrote that you can only use green in Ordinary Time and you can only use purple during Advent. That other congregations in the Episcopal church use blue and the Church of South India uses saffron, which is absolutely lovely.

And it was amazing how that lit people up both as a difference and as a discovery of what a liturgical color could feel like, having not necessarily appreciated where it came from or why we used it before. That’s where difference helps us.

I think also difference helps us in that if we aren’t engaged with, if we’re not hungry for — not just tolerant of — and yearning for diversity, then we’re missing a little. It’s easy to become self-focused and idolatrous looking at ourselves and being self-focused.

NB:
I understand that your trip this past summer to Tanzania was the first Compass Rose Society visit there since before the pandemic. How did that span of time change the visit? How did it change the relationships, having not seen each other for so many years?

DWW:
What was different this time was that this was the first time we’ve ever visited a province and not a diocese. We were very spread out! We visited the Diocese of Zanzibar, we visited the Diocese of Dar es Salaam, we visited the Diocese of Tanga and the Diocese of Dodoma, and we visited St. John’s University. So, we were all over from the middle of the country in the political capital, and back out to the financial capital on the coast, over to Zanzibar, up to Tanga. Tanga is also on the coast, so we were all over the place and that was big. I’m looking forward to developing those relationships. I had most recently seen Archbishop Maimbo Mndolwa in England in autumn of 2022.

I’ve spent time with him before several different times. This was the first time I had seen Bishop Emanuel Bwatta of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika since he was here in Newport in January of 2020. But we talk on the phone all the time and on WhatsApp; the relationships don’t go away. They don’t go away. It was wonderful to be back again. I lived there in the summer of 2016 for my internship and to be back in Tanzania and to stretch out and speak a little bad Swahili, kindergarten Swahili. It was fun.

NB:
Is there a story from Tanzania that highlights that relationship building?

DWW:
I have two. First is the capacity that we have, any of us with material resources, to do good. … Church is really important and God is really important in Tanzania. … They don’t divide the world up between what is sacred and what is secular. They don’t say, okay, this is the holy pile and this is the daily pile, the mundane pile. We put food and agriculture and economic development and healthcare and education in the daily mundane pile and put Sunday worship in the holy pile, and that’s got a special gold ring around it, a halo.

They don’t do that. Hence, they have enormous integration in incarnate effectiveness every single day. Trinity Wall Street made an economic development grant to the diocese of Dodoma and built a downtown office building. Guess who the development officers are in East Africa? Typically the mamas, the Mothers’ Union, is in charge of economic development because they are in charge of the family, which is also an inverse, right? It’s different from what you’d expect. But the mamas are in charge. They do all investment and all singing. The building was opened ceremonially by the president of Tanzania the day after we left.

Although it hadn’t been it finished out yet, the building was leased up by the National Bank and by other national corporations, producing investment dollars to operate the social services and every service of the church. The church functions in a very vital way, not relegated to Sundays for an hour, but “all the time,” as they say.

And the other story is that my husband and I spent time in the Diocese of Western Tanganyika, a place where I’ve had a relationship for probably close to 20 years with the Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Bwatta. While we were there, I preached one Sunday to 1600 people. I’d never done that before. It was ecumenical and interfaith because it was in a fishing village where there were Muslim people and Christian people, Anglican people. All of the young people were there to support their friends, with 180 youth confirmed that day by Bishop Emmanuel.

… I think sometimes in the United States, we tend to think that we’ve got everything under control and that we’re going to manage this away and we’re going to manage that away. And we’re just not focused on holy things. And by the time we’ve carved God out of every area of our lives, we’ve got an hour on Sundays and it’s like, “see you next week, call you if we need you.” But there’s nothing else going on. They really integrate faith and the presence of God into their whole lives and there’s something really holy about that that’s compelling.

NB:
What have I not asked about? What would you want folks in the diocese to know about the Compass Rose Society?

DWW:
Our lectionary for Sunday (John 1:43-51; this interview was conducted on January 17, 2024) was “come and see,” and I’ve always said that Compass Rose was a “come and see” ministry. I had no idea in 2008 when I went to the Compass Rose annual meeting: I didn’t know about the Anglican Communion, I didn’t know if it was a letterhead, or if it was an office building. Was it an address? I had no idea. I didn’t know what the Anglican Communion was. And when I found out, I was gobsmacked, and my life was changed forever. It’s a “come and see” ministry.

Tea Time Theology Podcast Returns with Stories of Historically Black Parishes

A cup of tea with the Episcopal shield as the teabag tagTea Time Theology, a podcast sponsored by the diocese, returns for its sixth season on February 20.  While its previous seasons have examined how we encounter theology in everyday life, pop culture, and even bumper stickers, upcoming episodes will present oral histories of three historically black churches in the diocese that have now closed: Church of the Savior, Christ Church, Eddy Street, and Church of the Epiphany, all in Providence, and a history of the The Cathedral of St. John. 

 The idea for the histories was generated when Tea Time host Ivy Swinski met with the Rev. Patrick Campbell, rector of Redeemer, Providence and board member of the Center for Reconciliation, to discuss collecting the oral history of Church of the Savior. Inspired by their conversation, Swinski presented her collaborators with the idea of discussing Church of the Savior and the other historically Black congregations on the podcast.  

 “It’s a way of honoring those who were worshiping in these communities long before us and what came of them,” Swinski says. 

 While Tea Time Theology typically interviews only clergy, this season includes the stories of laypeople—some of them lifelong members of their congregations–to tell the story of each parish. Some interviewees, Swinski says, brought artifacts from their congregations to recording sessions to help the audience visualize their stories. Images of the artifacts will be available on the Tea Time Theology Facebook page. 

 Season 6 of Tea Time Theology will be hosted by Swinski, Campbell, and Dwayne Keys. Episodes air on Tuesdays in Lent beginning February 20, and are available wherever you get your podcasts. 

City Meal Site at All Saints’ Providence Seeks Volunteers. No Bologna.

City Meal Site volunteers
Phil Graham and Carol Salvatore, City Meal Site volunteers, pass out grab-and-go meals and bottled water at Crossroads Rhode Island on Broad Street.

How do your Tuesdays look? Got a little time in the afternoon? The City Meal Site (CMS) operating at All Saints’ Memorial Church in Providence has an invitation for you. 

The volunteers who run the program are looking for help in continuing a tradition of feeding neighbors in need that began in the kitchen of a low-income apartment in the early 1980s. 

“Anyone who spent a Tuesday afternoon — or any part thereof — helping us make and distribute our meals would find a devoted core group,” says Jack Nolan, a member of both the parish and the CMS board. “It is gratifying work and there is a cheerful fellowship, something of a family feeling, among the half-dozen long-time volunteers.”  

CMS once offered sit-down meal service, but during the pandemic switched to ‘grab-and-go’ meals consisting of a sandwich of deli-quality meat and cheese, chips, a dessert and bottled water. “No bologna,” Nolan says.   

The operation serves 144 meals each Tuesday as part of a regular local rotation of meals available to those who may be unhoused or food insecure in central Providence. CMS also supplied masks and hand-sanitizer to guests during the pandemic, and gives out socks, gloves and underwear in the winter.  

Last winter, the group distributed thick wool blankets donated by the Department of Defense to guests who live on the streets. “We handed out dozens of these just before the vicious cold-snap last January and may have actually saved a life or two,” Nolan says. 

The Grab-and-Go operation requires a smaller group to prepare meals than the sit-down dinners CMS once served, and the current working group are all members of the organization’s board. Meals are prepared between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. with doors opening at 5:00 p.m. for an hour of service. The balance of the meals are delivered to Providence Rescue Mission, housing for low-income families, and other locations that count on CMS for their Tuesday dinner. 

City Meal Site is not affiliated with any religious group and offers no religious practice—”We just feed poor people,” Nolan says—but the core of the board, including Nolan, the Rev. Dr. Julie Hanavan, priest-in-charge at All Saints’, and Bob Wells, a member of the All Saints’ vestry, are Episcopalians. 

According to the oral history Nolan has heard, Episcopalians nurtured the ministry that became CMS almost from the start. In the early 1980s, a few kind women began making sandwiches for their neighbors in the kitchens of their apartments in a housing complex on Charles Street.  Their work outgrew their space, however, and they made an agreement with the Cathedral of St. John, which helped them establish a non-profit in 1987 and opened its kitchen to their use.   

In these new digs, City Meal Site began serving sit-down meals with guests served restaurant-style rather than standing in line with a tray.  

By 2012, City Meal Site had moved from the cathedral to All Saints’ Memorial, where it continues to be a tenant. The group’s fortunes were flagging, but Rev. David Ames, then All Saints’ priest-in-charge, reinvigorated their work, raising money for a new refrigerator and freezer. City Meal Site is currently funded through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, a federal program administered by the Diocese of Providence, Episcopal Charities, and by small donations from some parish outreach programs.  

On occasion, the group sends speakers to the lecterns of local congregations to thank members for their support, and to explain how their donations are spent. To arrange for a speaker from City Meal Site to visit your congregation, contact Bob Wells at robertwells104@gmail.com or 401.354.9412. 

 

Follow where you believe God is calling your heart

The Rev. Jo-Ann Drake, the first woman ordained to the priesthood from the Diocese of Rhode Island, wasn’t able to make the luncheon the diocesan chapter of the Episcopal Church Women hosted recently to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood. But she sent a note. It read, in part:

“On Sunday I had the joy of celebrating the 45th Anniversary of my Ordination to the Priesthood. When Bishop [Fredrick H.] Belden ordained me, he congratulated me on being the first woman priest in the Diocese. I thanked him then told him that all that really mattered was that I wouldn’t be the last.

Your gathering this day demonstrates how resoundingly God answered our prayers and affirmed our call. My thoughts and prayers are with you all and may you have a joyful and Spirit filled day.”

Drake found her way into the Episcopal Church through campus ministry programs at Rhode Island College and Brown University. Belden, a staunch advocate for women’s ordination at a time when the diocese was divided on the issue, ordained her to the priesthood on October 1, 1978, at St. Peter’s Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where she had been serving as a transitional deacon.

She would serve other churches in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire before returning to Rhode Island in 1993 as rector of Church of the Redeemer in Providence. Looking back on her journey, which began in a time of great uncertainty, she said recently that she “wouldn’t change a minute of it.”

Drake’s path to the priesthood began as the Episcopal Church’s sometimes fractious discernment of whether women should be ordained to the priesthood was reaching its climax. Such ordinations were not permitted when she entered Episcopal Divinity School (EDS) in the fall of 1974, yet weeks earlier in Philadelphia, three bishops had ordained 11 women in defiance of the church’s prohibition.

By the time she graduated from EDS, not only had the church’s General Convention authorized women’s ordination to the priesthood, but two of the Philadelphia 11—the Revs. Carter Hayward, Ph.D and Suzanne Hiatt—were members of the seminary’s faculty.

As the church’s discernment progressed, Drake’s did, too. She had originally felt called to teach, but her interest in ordained ministry intensified, and Belden encouraged her. “I cannot say one bad word about him,” Drake said. “He was so kind and gracious and wanted to ordain a woman in Rhode Island.”

Her path “didn’t really cross,” with Hayward and Hiatt’s, Drake said, but she appreciated their example. “I admire their courage and believe they honestly were following God’s call,” she said. “What they did was grace-filled and holy; a spiritual outpouring of God’s will and God’s love.”

While a number of her classmates were involved in women’s groups and other activities, Drake said that wasn’t for her. “I’m a bookworm and a geek,” she said. “I loved having my nose stuck in a book.”

“A lot” has changed over the course of her ministry, Drake said, particularly in the acceptance of female clergy. While Drake attended chapel regularly at EDS, several of her fellow students and the faculty chose not to attend if Heyward or Hyatt were celebrating. Some bishops would not allow their seminarians to attend.

There have also been significant changes in seminary curriculum, especially around liberation theology, which was just beginning to be studied during her years, she said.

Drake is now retired and associated with St Paul’s, Pawtucket where “I do as much for them as I can,” running the website, contributing to workshops, programs, and quiet days online, and celebrating the Eucharist on occasion. She does interim and supply work, telling the congregations she visits: “I’m here to share the love of God with you. Let’s go.” and “When someone hungry in front of you, give them a sandwich, someone lonely in front of you, spend a few minutes.”

Guests at the ECW luncheon included the Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf, the diocese’s former bishop, who was a classmate of Drake’s at EDS, and the Rev. Elizabeth Habecker, a member of the Rhode Island Standing Committee, who was the first woman ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Maine. Wolf, the first woman to be elected bishop of the diocese, presided at the Eucharist preceding the luncheon, and Habecker was among those who offered reflections on their ministry.

Asked what she would say to women considering seminary and ordination today, Drake responded that she would say the same thing to a woman as to a man: “follow where you believe God is calling your heart. If it’s right, God will open the doors. … Happiness in life is in finding what you discern and believe. Follow what you discern is the best for us – what God wants for us. Pray for that – trust that God is going to bring you there.” She concluded by noting, “It’s all about the journey. It’s nice to celebrate the goals, but it’s the whole journey.”

 

2023 Convention Round-Up

The diocesan convention passed a $4.8 million operating budget that reflects a strong commitment to camp ministry and includes a 15 percent assessment of congregational operating income at its annual meeting on October 28, over Zoom.

In presenting the budget, Jim Segovis, chair of the finance committee, said that diocesan funds and congregational contributions made it possible for the diocese to support “life-saving, life-changing diocesan ministries, including a vibrant camp and conference center; college and young adult ministry; Hispanic ministry; responses to climate change; and ministry to unhoused people.”

The budget also includes funds to compensate the diocesan staff, furnish grants and loans to congregations, maintain diocesan property, and support “the churchwide and global ministries of the wider Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion,” he said. (Read a budget narrative.)

In his annual address, Bishop Nicholas Knisely urged the convention to consider the word “parish” in the context of the Episcopal Church’s Anglican heritage.

Churches founded by the Church of England “understand their congregation as the people who worship in the building and the parish as the people who live near the building,” he said. “The people who worship are gathered and sent to care for their neighbors, who are part of their parish whether they worship with them or not.

“We serve the community in which we are planted,” he said. “We serve the people who worship in the building, but not because they’re our loyal customers, though we fall into the trap often enough. We serve the people who worship in the building so that they are equipped and consecrated by virtue of their baptism to serve the parish in which we live.”

The budget is informed by an Anglican understanding of what it means to be a parish, Bishop Knisely said, using the $141,000 contribution from the operating budget to Episcopal Camp and Conference Center as an example.

“[T]he ECC subsidy is the largest part of our common work funded by parish assessments,” Bishop Knisely said. “That speaks to our commitment to this work and reflects its impact on the people who attend.”

Sixty percent of those who attend ECC camps are not Episcopalians, he said. “They are the people in our neighborhoods, not the people in our buildings.”

ECC’s camping programs survived difficult years at the depths of the pandemic, Bishop Knisely said, but they rebounded this summer. “This … tells me that ECC is a sustainable, life-changing program and ministry which we have made significant investments in over the past decade, and which I believe will continue to have an impact across the state and around the wider church.”

The diocesan budget also devotes $56,700 to campus ministry.

“I’m grateful that together we’re able to continue to engage young adults on a number of our college and university campuses in Rhode Island—not just in having identified chaplains on campus, but by having entire congregations recognize that it’s an important part of their local ministry,” Bishop Knisely said. “I’m hoping that in coming years we’ll be able to do more and coordinate the various programs more effectively.”

The bishop said he is also eager to find ways to relieve parishes and parish clergy of administrative burdens, perhaps through assistance with bookkeeping, payroll services and assistance in fulfilling legal and canonical responsibilities.

“I want to try to find ways to put you back in the mission field that we ordained you to serve, that we trained you to serve, and that you want to serve,” he told clergy.

“I want you to cultivate that community so that community can cooperate to solve the larger problems we are facing. And if you convert a few people, that would not be such a terrible thing.”

In other business, the diocese elected members to a variety of offices and confirmed appointments made by the bishop.

Delegates also approved the first reading of a constitutional amendment that would give the opportunity to speak, but not vote, at convention to officers of the diocese, members of diocesan commissions and other individuals selected by the bishop and approved by the convention.

A resolution that would have modified the nominating process for diocesan elections—in part by eliminating the requirement that nominees receive the endorsement of three members of the convention—was narrowly defeated.

The Rev. Dr. Andrew McGowan, dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, preached at the convention Eucharist on the evening October 27 at St. Luke’s Church, East Greenwich. Earlier in the day he gave a presentation on “True Bread: The meals of Jesus and the life of the Church” at St. Luke’s.