Presiding bishop visits East Carolina diocese, calls church to action after deadly tornadoes[Episcopal News Service] An image gallery accompanying this article is available here.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori concluded a three-day visit to the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina on Palm Sunday, preaching in Spanish and celebrating the Eucharist at La Iglesia de la Sagrada Familia in Newton Grove, North Carolina.
More than 200 parishioners and visitors attended the outdoor service at the Hispanic mission church, an outgrowth of the Episcopal Farmworkers Ministry. The Rev. Jesus Antonio Rojas, executive director of EFM, presided during he service. He was joined by East Carolina Bishop Clifton Daniel and Bishop Assisting Santosh Marray.
Rojas said that attendance at the service had been cut in half because a high number of parishioners had been affected by the string of tornadoes that swept through eastern North Carolina the night before. More than 20 people died as a result of the storms, which raked the eastern half of the state around dusk.
During the service, Jefferts Schori called on the broader church to provide assistance and prayers for relief.
"We hold all affected in our prayers and hope that the larger Episcopal Church can provide constructive assistance in supporting the grieving, injured, and displaced," she said.
Daniel, Marray, and the Rev. Matthew Stockard, canon to the ordinary, plan to tour the most heavily affected areas this week.
"We share the pain of all who mourn the tragic loss of lives and homes within eastern North Carolina, especially in the towns of Snow Hill, Askewville, Colerain and other areas of Greene and Bertie counties," Daniel said. "The Episcopal Church will provide assistance to affected areas to assist with efforts to restore and rebuild lives and homes in the days ahead. We will offer prayers for relief for those affected and prayers of thanksgiving for those offering help to those who suffer."
Jefferts Schori began her visit to the diocese on April 15 by presiding at a celebration of the Holy Eucharist and Renewal of Ordination Vows at Christ Church in New Bern, North Carolina, where she preached on the topic of "Frontiers of Mission."
On April 16, she spent the morning with youth at Trinity Retreat and Conference center in Pine Knoll Shores. There, she conducted a free-flowing conversation with about 20 young people from across the diocese before joining them for a "Sound to Sea" program that opened their eyes to the diverse ecology on the barrier islands, the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
During the afternoon, she visited St. Anne's Church in Jacksonville, holding another informal conversation with a group of parishioners in the sanctuary before sharing dinner with members of the military and their families. The presiding bishop declared that the Episcopal Church is a place of "radical hospitality," and urged parishioners to reach out to the military and to their families, particularly during times of deployment, when problems such as fear, loneliness and economic challenges can become overwhelming.
"It was a joy to have our presiding bishop visit this diocese and to see and experience a variety of the diverse ministries in which Episcopalians are involved," said Daniel. "She offered much encouragement and challenged the church to become ever more open, inclusive and hospitable toward all people. Her visit will bear good fruit in our diocesan efforts in ministry among youth, military families and the Hispanic community. We give thanks for her ministry and will continue to keep her in our prayers."