Council's Young Wonder
By G. Jeffrey MacDonald, The Living Church
Thomas Alexander was finishing breakfast and preparing to join fellow members of Executive Council for Morning Prayer one day in November when he demonstrated two gifts he brings to that body: a wry sense of humor and a knack for understatement.
“I seem to be younger than a lot of the other people,” said Alexander, 19. The average age of Executive Council’s members is closer to 60 than 20. He is the lay representative from Province VII.
A sophomore at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, Alexander is the only council member who needed an undergraduate dean’s permission to serve on the governing board, because attendance at council meetings requires him to leave campus for four or five days each year.
Alexander is confident that what he brings to the table is not an ability to speak for his generation. What he provides, in addition to a sharp wit, might be a clear sense how the church can meet 21st-century needs without pandering or compromising its identity. He believes council members appreciate him in that capacity and not as a youthful token.
“They’re not, you know, putting words in my mouth as a young person,” he said, noting that 19-year-olds are not monolithic and no one speaks for all of them. “There hasn’t been any, like, Let’s ask Thomas because he’s young. They kind of get it that you shouldn’t do that.”
Clad in a bow tie and speaking in measured tones, Alexander presents as a man mature beyond his years. He’s quickly building a denominational résumé to match.
In 2013, at age 17, he served on the mission planning team for the 2014 Episcopal Youth Event, which drew 1,000 participants. Last year he represented the Diocese of Arkansas as a General Convention deputy.
Before seeking the deputy role, he wondered if he might be too young. But he decided it was the right time to become involved with so much change afoot — from the election of a new presiding bishop to the adoption of new canons, new task forces, and a continuing effort to restructure the church.
“All these different changes, I think, are putting us in a different direction,” he said. “I was attracted to that.”
Alexander describes himself as one who has always been drawn to new things, as well as to traditional forms in church life. His parents, both devout Episcopalians, established his faith roots in a new church plant of the 1990s: St. Margaret’s in Little Rock. His passion for Gregorian chant and other monastic music grew out of his experience at Christ Church, also in Little Rock, where he now worships.
At Hendrix, he combined the traditional with the innovative last fall by launching a weekly, chant-based Compline service that draws around 25 people every Sunday night. It could be seen as a type of evangelism, he says, albeit not a conventional one. It has involved recruiting non-Christian singers by assuring them their gifts are needed to help a Christian activity succeed.
Compline also lets people come and engage on any level they wish. Some treat it purely as a concert. Others find it provides nice background music for reading, or as an opportunity to lie down in a pew and relax.
“It does different things for different people,” he said. “I think for Episcopalians that can be hard. As creed-based, liturgy-based people, we kind of like having our This is what Christianity looks like. We can see here. It’s pretty formulaic. But there’s just all these different experiences going on. And that’s the beauty of being in the Episcopal Church: it’s that that’s okay.”
Alexander is starting to make a name for himself in the church’s leadership circles, not so much because of his age as despite it.
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Anti-Racism Network Welcomes New Chair
Sherry Denton, President of Province 7, has announced the appointment of
Ayesha Mutope-Johnson as Chair of the Anti-Racism Network for the Province.
Born in the Caribbean, Ayesha is a cradle Anglican who taught Sunday school in her native country of Trinidad and Tobago before straying far, far from the church to “find herself.” When she renewed her faith and joined the Episcopal Church, the unmistakable joy of the elegant and ceremonial liturgical worship captured her senses.
A member of St. James Episcopal Church, Houston, since 1991, Ayesha has served on the vestry, the long-range planning committee, the school board, the school strategic planning committee (chair), the school fundraising committee (chair), the Head of School search committee (chair), and the visioning board for rebuilding the church after it was demolished by a tornado. She is a member of Daughters of the King, Episcopal Church Women, the Ushers Guild, Lectors, new member mentors and the Christian Formation Commission. Ayesha teaches adult Christian Education, conceiving, designing and preparing her own syllabi after careful research. Annually, since its inception at St. James 10 years ago, she has taught the adult class in Vacation Bible School.
As an attorney of some 30 years, Ayesha has served as Chancellor at St. James since 2011, and has made a point of working pro bono for the church as well as for needy clients. In 2014, she retired, closed her law practice, and began to pursue, on a part time basis, Christian Counseling, for which she completed a Master of Arts degree and was credentialed as a Licensed Professional Counselor.
A member of the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE) since 2005, Ayesha has begun research and preparation for conducting racial reconciliation programs in her home community of Houston. In September 2014, just one month after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, as Programming Chair of the Rev. John Dublin Epps Chapter of UBE, Ayesha organized a panel
discussion: “Intergenerational Perspectives on the Church’s Mission for People of Color,” which broached the very current issues of extra-judicial killings of young Black men in America’s cities. This discussion led to a Bishop’s meeting to advance the concerns of people of color within the Diocese of Texas, and has been instrumental in supporting the Bishop’s efforts to lead the dialog that will serve to dismantle, tooth and nail, racism in the Diocese.
Ayesha is married to Caliph Johnson, and has three adult children and three grandchildren.
"Diocesan Youth Workers Day of Awesome!”
What is it? Networking and Spiritual Refreshment for Diocesan Youth Coordinators
When? October 6-8, 2015
Description: Diocesan youth ministries are focused ministries different from many others. Because of the nature of their positions, these youth workers don't often get the opportunity to network with their colleagues. This retreat is an opportunity for networking, support, and spiritual renewal among people who have similar ministries.
Cost: $225 at Nicholas Center (2 nights) in Chicago
$45 if staying elsewhere or commuting
Fees include Tues. dinner, Wed. breakfast & lunch, Thurs. breakfast
Matching grants of $110 are available from Province 7.
Contact: Randall Curtis
General Convention at a Glance: Snapshots by Delegation*
* More photos will be added as they become available.
Welcome Presiding Bishop Michael Curry!
[Episcopal News Service – Salt Lake City, Utah] The Episcopal Church’s General Convention made history June 27 when it chose Diocese of North Carolina Bishop Michael Curry to be its 27th presiding bishop.
Curry, 62, was elected by the House of Bishops from a slate of four nominees on the first ballot. He received 121 votes of a total 174 cast. Diocese of Southwest Florida Bishop Dabney Smith received 21, Diocese of Southern Ohio Bishop Thomas Breidenthal, 19, and Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, 13. The number of votes needed for election was 89.
Curry’s election was confirmed an hour later by the House of Deputies, as outlined in the church’s canons, by a vote of 800 to 12.
Episcopal Relief & Development
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Flooding in Central Texas: Wimberley especially hard hit
Volunteer Opportunities on the Blanco River
Archdeacon Finds Major Damage, but Much Help in
Flooded Area of Houston
by Carol E. Barnwell, Diocese of Texas
Photo: The Rev. Gena Davis (r) had just put her house on the market when it was flooded. She and husband Gary have spent the past week throwing most of their soaked library onto the curb and taking clothes to the dry cleaners with lots of help from parishioners. "Well, it's a heck-of-a way to downsize!" she said.
“I saw a lot of people with a light in their eyes,” said the Very Rev. Russ Oechsel, archdeacon for the Diocese of Texas. “They know God is with us all the time.” Oechsel led an emergency spiritual care team from the Diocese of Texas through the streets of the Meyerland area in Southwest Houston, an area especially hard hit by recent flooding.
Their purpose was to show up to listen to the stories of those affected by the flooding during the past week. In addition, they carried coolers filled with water bottles and Home Depot gift cards. They heard many stories and were struck by the number of Houstonians out helping their neighbors as flooded homes were cleaned out.
“We saw off duty police officers, firemen and military personnel helping people clear out wet carpet and sheetrock. There was one group who showed up with food,” Oechsel said. “They set up under a big tent serving lasagna to anyone who came.”
In the Westbury neighborhood, they met Stephanie, the leader of the Westbury Civic Club. Stephanie was under a blue tent recording the needs of the various homeowners and at the same time sending out volunteers to help those homeowners address their needs.
“Stephanie was doing this on an ad hoc basis with no particular training, but with the heart of a leader and the compassion of our Savior,” Oechsel said. “It was a powerful example of people caring for each other.”
The team met a young minister and his wife who were renting their home, now flooded. The couple have a young son, 18 months old, and they are expecting another boy soon. The owner of the house had come to remove carpeting and friends were helping them move their furniture and items that were not ruined into storage. Their church has found temporary housing for them.
Oechsel said they met a single woman who had insurance, but it would not cover temporary housing. She’d begun cleaning out the house, but still needs help. The team left contact information and plans to follow up with emergency funds early next week.
“We met a wonderful man named Drew,” Oechsel said. “He lost his father early in his life, but was raised in the neighborhood. He takes care of his elderly neighbors, mowing their grass and watching out for them. He asked us to go and see Mrs. Hamilton. He said he knew she needed to talk. We walked down the street and knocked on her door and were greeted by a lovely older woman. She cares for her husband who has Alzheimer’s and is bed bound. He is in hospice and she pays for a caregiver during the day and at night,” he said. “Mrs. Hamilton’s son came to help clean out so she can save her energy to care for her husband. She was very grateful for our visit promised she would call when she was ready for help.”
“We have some funds,” he said, “and I handed out a lot of cards with my phone number. Mostly, we spent the day listening to peoples’ experiences,” he added.
“I spoke to the the former senior warden at Ascension Episcopal Church,” Oechsel said. “He and his brother were helping their father who is in his 80s and has Alzheimer’s.” The man has lived in his home for nearly 60 years and it was completely flooded.
“It’s important that we are present,” Oechsel said. “Our spiritual care team is there to listen to people, to pray with them, assess their needs, offer gift cards, water and chat.” Oechsel plans to travel to Wimberley in June to work with the Diocese of West Texas and others to plan strategic long term response to the devastation. ERD has already granted $15K for emergency relief for which Oechsel is very grateful. The Diocese of Texas also sent a donation to the Diocese of West Texas in relief aid for Central Texas and in Acuna, Mexico on the border with the Diocese of West Texas where a tornado killed 17 people over the weekend.
“We’ll sit down with the diocesan staff in West Texas to map out our resources for long term recovery once the first wave of cleanup has taken place,” he said. Most of the homes destroyed in Wimberley were likely to be insured. That is not the case to the south in San Marcos. “If we begin a major rebuilding effort, it may focus on the San Marcos area, but we will know more in a few weeks,” he said.
The Diocese of Texas had several churches report minor damage, but no major flooding, although many parishioners are facing major rebuilding once the storms are past. Many cars were flooded as well.
The Rev. Gena Davis, rector of Grace Episcopal Church, Houston, had more than two feet of water in her home and lost two cars. Much of her extensive library was lost to water damage, although she was able to find her treasured icons in time to dry them off and save them from permanent damage.
Her husband Gary worked for three years overseeing the rebuilding efforts in Galveston following Hurricane Ike and now finds it strange to be on the receiving end of the flooding. “I remember comforting people who were very upset at having lost everything,” he said. “I still can’t take this all in,” he added, looking around at the piles of furniture and household items hauled to the curb from their home.
Davis said she ignored the numerous alerts from her cell phone the night of the flood and it
wasn’t until she realized the car’s alarm was going off that she got out of bed to check. It was then she stepped into several inches of water, “that just continued to rise.”
Texas hopes for a drying out period in the coming days and many consider that the drought the state has suffered for the past several years might not look so bad.
Donations are being accepted for flood victims at the Diocese of Texas. Make checks payable to The Episcopal Diocese of Texas, marked “flood relief,” and mail to: 1225 Texas St., Houston, TX 77002.
Online donations are being accepted by the Diocese of West Texas. Go to dwtx.org/departments/world-mission and click “donate.” Apply your gift to “commission of emergency response” or contact Kaitlin Reed at 888.210.824.5387 or email her at Kaitlin.email@example.com with further questions.
New Officers Elected for Province 7 Executive Board & ECW
Click here for more photos from Province 7 Synod & Pre-General Convention Delegates Meeting.
[Episcopal News Service] The Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop May 1 announced the names of the bishops it will nominate this summer to succeed Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.
The four names will be formally submitted to the General Convention during a joint session on June 26, the day prior to the day set for the election by the House of Bishops of the 27th presiding bishop. The nominees are:
Read about the nominees here.