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Diocesan Digest - April 27

[Episcopal News Service] 

Bishops, missioner call for immigration reform
DELAWARE: Church joins town’s 375th celebration
LOS ANGELES: Episcopalians to join May Day rally for immigrant rights
MAINE: Church vows to rise from fire
PENNSYLVANIA: Historic church completes fire-safety program
PENNSYLVANIA: 304-year-old church outside Philadelphia to close
SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: Clergy coalition joins hands with striking janitors
SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: Coadjutor nominations being accepted

ALABAMA: Bishops, missioner call for immigration reform

[SOURCE: Diocese of Alabama] The Diocese of Alabama’s two bishops and its Hispanic missioner issued a statement April 20 reiterating their support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Bishop Henry N. Parsley, Jr. of Alabama; Bishop Suffragan Mark H. Andrus; and the Rev. Hernan Afanador, Hispanic missioner, noted that in recent weeks “several thousand Alabamians have gathered at sites across the state to express solidarity with our Hispanic immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Citing Old and New Testament admonitions to give aid to the stranger, they also praised the baptismal covenant-based relationships they say are growing in the diocese during the struggle for immigration reform. “We rejoice to see this recognition and respect taking place, and we encourage all to be mindful of this call to godly relationships,” they wrote.

They note that most immigrants working in Alabama pay income and Social Security taxes, “the benefits of which they do not reap.”

The three joined a growing group of Episcopal Church members and officials who have issued calls for immigration reform, including the church’s Executive Council, Episcopal Migration Ministries, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and a number of other bishops.

The full text of the Alabama letter is available at

DELAWARE: Church joins town’s 375th celebration

[SOURCE: WMDT television] The town of Lewes, Delaware, kicked off its 375th birthday celebration April 21 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Delaware lawmakers re-enacted the signing of the town's first charter by the Dutch in 1631.

The first St. Paul’s church building was built in 1707 and the next in 1808. The current structure was consecrated in 1858.

"Lewes is renowned throughout the country. It's one of the coolest, neatest places in America to visit. I don't know if the Dutch knew what they were starting all those years ago, but it turned out just fine," said Delaware senator Tom Carper.
"I think it's so interesting to see all the historical links between all the different European people who came here as settlers and to see them now be part of this country," said Guusje Korthalsaltes.

Lewes was the first town and capital of Delaware.

LOS ANGELES: Episcopalians to join May Day rally for immigrant rights

[SOURCE: Diocese of Los Angeles] Led by Bishop Suffragan Chester Talton, Episcopalians from around the diocese will take part in a march and rally in support of immigrants’ right on Monday, May 1.  
The gathering, which is being coordinated by “We Are America,” a coalition of religious, civic, labor, community and student organizations, will mirror similar events throughout the United States.

Participants will gather in MacArthur Park, 2230 W. 6th Street in Los Angeles. Episcopalians will gather around the church banner at the Red Line Plaza serving the park. Clergy are asked to wear collars and stoles. Beginning at 4 p.m., the entire group will walk from MacArthur Park to La Brea Tar Pits, a distance of some five miles, arriving at about 7 pm. The tar pits will be the site of a rally, at which Talton, as well as Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese and other faith leaders will offer prayers.

Congregations in the area are asked to ring their bells for one minute at 5 pm on May 1 as a gesture of solidarity with immigrants and their work in the United States. Students and workers are encouraged to stay in school or at work on Monday and then join the march and rally, although many Los Angeles businesses are planning to close for the day.

St. James’ Church, Wilshire Center, Los Angeles, will be open to marchers for prayer, rest and refreshment during the march. Prayers will be offered on the hour in Korean, Spanish and English for a just solution to immigration questions. St. James’ Church is located at 3903 Wilshire Blvd., two blocks west of the Red Line station. Spanish-speaking clergy are invited to participate in leading prayers.

For information about the event and Episcopal Church participation, contact Canon Lydia Lopez, diocesan associate for communications and public affairs at 213.482.2040, ext. 245, or, or the Rev. Mark Hallahan, diocesan housing officer, at 213.482.2040, ext. 240, or
 May 1, or May Day, is International Workers' Day. In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in the United States called for legal establishment of an eight-hour workday, to be effective May 1, 1886. When the deadline was not met, a general strike and the Haymarket Riot in Chicago helped spur the federal government to standardize the eight-hour workday.

In many nations, May 1 is recognized officially as Labor Day. Exceptions include the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of which celebrate Labor (Labour) Day on other dates.

MAINE: Church vows to rise from fire

[SOURCE: Diocese of Maine, ENS] The sun was shining brilliantly the morning of April 20 as two dozen members of St. Martin's Episcopal Church stood close to one another and held a sunrise service on a hill by a road in Palmyra, Maine.

Throughout their prayers, however, a slight breeze carried the stench of burned, wet wood their way, the smell of the rubble of their 170-year-old church in ruins just a few feet away.

St. Martin's was destroyed the night before by a wind-fueled fire, and as parishioners prayed together in a circle, State Fire Marshal's Office Investigator Scott A. Richardson was attempting to determine a cause, and one firefighter is recovering from injuries he suffered.

Because the church is located high on a ridge, flames could be seen for miles, and many members of this small community gathered along Route 2 to watch a town landmark disappear.

After the brief service, Beverly Breau choked up when she recalled starting the Episcopal Church at St. Martin's in 1960. Previously, it had been a Methodist church.

Breau and about 35 other active members created a dynamic church community in Palmyra. "We have worked so hard for such a small congregation to keep this going," Breau told a local newspaper.

Firefighters saved many items from the church, including seven stained-glass windows, chalices, altar chairs, flags, the crucifix, prayer books and historical documents, candle holders and the baptismal font. Maine Bishop Chilton Knudsen said the salvaged items and the gathering of the community were “signs of hope, resurrection and celebration.”

St. Martin's parish hall, which is next door to the church, was not damaged in the fire.

The Celebration of New Ministry service welcoming of the congregation’s new minister, the Rev. Levering Sherman Jr., went on as scheduled at 2:30 p.m. April 23 at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Plainfield, Maine.

PENNSYLVANIA: Historic church completes fire-safety program

[SOURCE: Christ Church] Christ Church in Philadelphia celebrated the installation of fire-safety systems in the congregation’s historic structure on April 22.

A “water curtain” has been installed to protect Christ Church’s great wooden steeple from the threat of fire and burning embers which could so easily destroy the landmark building. The water curtain was tested during the April 22 ceremony. Umbrellas were provided for attendees.

Christ Church is on Second Street, just above Market Street in Old City Philadelphia. It was founded in 1695. The Georgian-style church with its towering steeple was the tallest structure in America for 75 years. Ten mayors of Philadelphia are buried at the church, as are seven signers of the Declaration of Independence. John Adams, who went on to become the second president of the United States, climbed to the top of the steeple on his first trip to Philadelphia in 1774 to escape the heat and noise of the streets.

Christ Church survived untouched from 1727 until 1908 when, during a violent thunderstorm, lightening struck the steeple and destroyed its upper portion. In 1927, the vestry had a kind of water curtain installed to wash the exterior, and installed sprinklers in the steeple’s first-floor and basement but the systems were no longer operational.

In 2004, a wind-swept fire gutted a neighboring commercial building and sent burning cinders sweeping past the church roof and steeple. Later that year a small fire started in the church Tower Room that could have destroyed the building, but was put out by National Park Rangers.

More information about the church is available at

PENNSYLVANIA: 304-year-old church outside Philadelphia to close

[SOURCE: Associated Press] A 304-year-old church in Delaware County has decided to close, citing declining membership and mounting debt.

St. Martin's Episcopal Church, founded in Marcus Hook in 1702, will hold its final service on June 4.

The founding members of St. Martin's, initially known as the Chapel of Chichester, fought in the Revolutionary War and helped establish the Episcopal Church in the United States. The church was moved to its current location in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania in 1967.
"The question was not just financial but missional," Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. told the Associated Press. "The people there have done fabulous work and have shown a faithfulness to their work, but the church has not attracted enough new members to make possible the ministry of a full-time priest."

Bennison said the Diocese of Pennsylvania is "working on a redeployment" for the church's pastor, the Rev. Lois Keen.

In recent years, average weekly attendance has fallen to less than 40. When the average attendance falls below 80, "a church is really at risk," Bennison said.

The church's closing also means the end of its preschool program, Little Lamb Daycare, which is slated to cease operations May 19. The program has approximately 10 teachers who tend to 40 children.

Bennison said an appraisal will be done to see what the 11.5-acre property is worth but it is unclear what will become of the church.

SOUTHEAST FLORIDA: Clergy coalition joins hands with striking janitors

[SOURCE: Diocese of Southeast Florida, Miami Herald] Nearly two months into a strike by janitors at the University of Miami, a group of South Florida clergy has rallied religious support for workers.

Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders have prayed with striking workers, offered their sanctuaries as alternative classroom sites, sent letters to the university president and invited janitors to speak to their congregations and even joined a hunger strike.

More than a dozen Catholic and Protestant clergy have pledged to fast as a sign of solidarity with workers, said the Rev. C.J. Hawking, a United Methodist minister and member of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, a national interfaith labor rights organization.

"It has helped us to find a voice that has been lost," said the Rev. James Ottley, an assistant bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida and president of the South Florida Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. That organization has supported the workers since they first began to organize last fall, and the Episcopal Student Center at the Chapel of the Venerable Bede has served as the “strike sanctuary,” a gathering place for workers and their supporters since the strike began.

Some janitors began a strike in early March to demand wage increases, healthcare and the right to form a union. The university has since raised service workers' wages to more than $8 an hour and offered healthcare, but negotiations have stalled over whether workers can unionize by signing cards rather than holding a secret election.

Some religious leaders, meanwhile, have argued that union supporters' tactics do not reflect religious values. In an opinion piece published April 23 in The Miami Herald, Rabbi Edwin Goldberg of Temple Judea in Coral Gables disagreed with the hunger strike and argued that the UM strike has more to do with union politics than social justice.

Others consider supporting the UM workers' strike a religious obligation. Frank Corbishley, an Episcopal university chaplain affectionately called ''Father Strike,'' has stood at the center of the struggle. Most days, he dons a straw hat and walks over to ''Freedom Village,'' the tent encampment outside the campus where earlier this month 10 workers staged a hunger strike.

“Some people might say that it's a political issue and clergy shouldn't be involved, and I say, `Go back and read your Bible,' '' said Corbishley, who has been a campus pastor for 12 years and says he's new to activism. “This is what the Gospel demands of me.''

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: Coadjutor nominations being accepted 

[SOURCE: Diocese of Southwest Florida] The nominating period for a bishop coadjutor in the Diocese of Southwest Florida opens May 1 and runs until July 5. The diocesan profile and nomination form are available now at the diocesan web site,

The final list of candidates is scheduled to be announced November 1. The election is scheduled to take place at St. Peter's Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Saturday, December 9.