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Hands-on rebuilding projects set for House of Bishops' meeting in New Orleans

Archbishop of Canterbury to join September gathering

[Episcopal News Service] When the House of Bishops meets September 20-25 in New Orleans, members and spouses will have hands-on opportunities to help rebuilding efforts in hurricane-affected areas.

While some will join weekend work projects of "mucking and gutting" damaged structures, others will join in prayer and pastoral visits with congregations and individuals.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, visiting at the bishops' invitation, will participate in a September 20 evening interfaith gathering to rededicate the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

Williams will join in dialogue with the bishops on subjects including the recently proposed Anglican covenant and the Primates Meeting communiqué issued in February 2007 in Tanzania urging support for the communiqué's requests by September 30.

"The planning committee of the House of Bishops and I believe this meeting will be a wonderful opportunity to show further support to the Dioceses of Louisiana and Mississippi," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote in a June letter to bishops, urging them to be in consultation with their dioceses about contributing to a purse for hurricane relief.

Each donor diocese is asked to consider a rough goal of $10,000, and the total purse is to be divided between the two dioceses of Louisiana and Mississipi, she noted. The purse would aid specific mission priorities enumerated in a list mailed to each bishop.

New Orleans, like the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has "become a place of pilgrimage," Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins wrote in a June letter to bishops. "Many who journey here and to the Mississippi Coast on mission trips find their lives changed and return home with a deeper and more lively sense of God present and active in their lives.

"A pilgrim comes seeking God, often with a certain notion of where and how God shall be found," Jenkins added. "A pilgrim is often a person surprised." 

Mississippi Bishop Duncan Gray III joined Jenkins in identifying current projects including construction of housing, rebuilding churches, provision of clergy salaries, and support for ongoing relief initiatives.

Aspects of poverty and hunger relief targeted by the first of eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals will be in focus September 21 as the bishops join an afternoon of dialogue with medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health medical programs in Haiti and around the world and subject of Tracy Kidder's book "Mountains Beyond Mountains."

Also invited by the Presiding Bishop to share in the bishops' conversations with the Archbishop of Canterbury are House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson and members of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates. By direction of the bishops' planning committee, these sessions are private conversations closed to the public, media and other visitors.

"We did good and constructive work at our last meeting, and the respect shown to each other and to different ideas was commendable," Jefferts Schori noted in her June letter to bishops. "I look forward to continued growth in our capacity to engage in constructive and challenging conversation."

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