Backpacks Galore @ Trinity, Logansport

Happy backpack recipients

Happy backpack recipients

The School Supply Give Away at Trinity Episcopal Church in Logansport, Indiana is a mixture of organization and chaos. It is rewarding and frustrating at the same time as we know that not all needs are being met. Our goal is for every student and family who comes to us goes to school on that first day feeling good about themselves, with new supplies ready and eager to learn. Our program has been running for twelve years and it is an undertaking that requires advance planning as well as savvy shoppers. As soon as the event occurs we begin shopping for the next year!

This year almost nine hundred students received supplies and backpacks individualized by grade and school.  Volunteers from our parish, the community, and the local work release program work together daily the week prior to the event to organize and fill our pews with bags of supplies. Our parishioners provide lunch for the volunteers each day which is a ministry in itself. (The work release individuals do not get home cooked meals at the facility.) By the end of the week, not only are the pews filled but the volunteers are filled also. Last year one of the work release volunteers asked me why we did this. It was a perfect opportunity to minister and share.  During the event he looked at me and said, “Now I understand.”

 Patrons line up at the front door of the church. After filling out a slip detailing the student’s grade and school, they are met at the front door by volunteers who retrieve the specific bags from the pews. Guests are then led to our parish hall where each student chooses a backpack. Backpacks and supplies in hand, the students then go into our parking lot where there is free popcorn, hot dogs, drinks, and even clothing. Families are free to take whatever clothing they want.

In the background there is guitar music and singing. And there is plenty of laughter and conversation. Volunteers seem to be everywhere packing more bags as the pews empty, cooking hotdogs, popping corn, meeting the needs of the multitude of people who come. Various social agencies have tables set up to let people know what services are available to them and their children so many questions are being answered.

It is our desire that each family feels welcomed, loved, and accepted. We are grateful for what God has given to us and we are grateful as a parish to share what we have been given.

- Written by The Rev. Clark Miller, Priest in Charge of Trinity Episcopal Church, Logansport

Holy Family Co-hosts "Community Conversations"

Community Conversations @ Cahoots in Angola, IN

Community Conversations @ Cahoots in Angola, IN

Throughout the month of August, residents from Angola and beyond gathered at the invitation of local congregations (incl. Holy Family) and the Community Coalition for Change ("CCC") to practice dialogue and deliberation around important and often contentious social issues. Our goal was not only to practice listening to each other, but to discover common ground for local, next steps we might take.

In July, Fr. Tom Adamson was invited by Pastor Daryl Emry of Calvary Lutheran in Angola to join clergy from the Methodist, Congregational, and Roman Catholic churches to discern 4 social topics, which might be difficult for people to talk about with one another. Immigration, Gun Violence, Opioid Addiction, and Energy Choices were selected. Next the clergy invited the CCC, a group of Angola citizens with no religious affiliation who seek to work for a just society, to join in the design process.

Each session was well attended and produced a desire to take action, for example, the design team is looking into inviting an immigration lawyer to help the community learn more about the complexities of immigration law; and the Faith Community Health Clinic (housed in Holy Family) is working to collect unused prescription pain medications to prevent opioid abuse.

Special thanks to Angola Mayor Dick Hickman, to Fr. Joshua Nelson for attending all four sessions (commuting from Elkhart), and Missioner Adrien Niyongabo for attending the second session.

- the Rev. Tom Adamson, Holy Family Episcopal Church, Angola, IN

Saint Alban’s Fort Wayne Completes London Pilgrimage

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During the last week of July, Saint Alban's of Fort Wayne youth group went on a pilgrimage to London and the original Saint Alban's in England. The trip was helped by a grant from the Center for Congregations.  Matt Burke, the director of the Center for Northeast Indiana, helped kickoff our pilgrimage on the Sunday before we left with a special pilgrimage commissioning.  The group also appreciated the prayer support of many in the church.

The group had been preparing for the pilgrimage for over a year. Pilgrimage classes were held every third Sunday of the month in the evening, and anyone could attend.  The classes focused on learning the Church History of England and British culture. The two main pilgrimage sites were Westminster Abbey and the original Saint Alban’s. 

We visited Westminster Abbey the Thursday we were there. After a beautiful Holy Communion service held in the nave, the on-call priest, Reverend Giles, took us to the Shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor for a special prayer service. This is generally not something most people get to do. However, the people at the Abbey were wonderful. After this we received a special tour of the Abbey.

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Our time at Saint Alban's was equally  blessed. David Skidmore of “The Friends of Saint Alban” set-up a blessed day for us. We came to worship on the Sunday we were there.  Dean Jeffrey John was very gracious and invited Fr. Dan to preach. The Dean celebrated at the High Altar in a beautiful service. We also received a great tour giving us a tremendous look at the history, ending at the Shrine of Saint Alban.

Our pilgrimage had other foci as well. We visited The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, a bus tour of the city, a river boat cruise, Platform 9 3⁄4 (of Harry Potter fame), and a visit to the British Museum. In addition many in our group went to Stonehenge, Kensington Palace, Abbey Road, and a tour of the M&M factory. We also had fun in the evenings riding the London Eye, Going to the Hard Rock Cafe, seeing a hilarious play called “The Play that Goes Wrong,” and a funny ghost bus tour on Saturday evening.

The people of London and Saint Alban's were absolutely wonderful and extremely helpful. We ran into many London “angels” who helped our experience be a special one not soon forgotten. Pilgrimage is about seeing how God transforms us on a very special journey. God certainly touched the lives of many on our London Pilgrimage.

To see photos of the experience visit the Saint Albans youth group  Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/Saint-Albans-Youth-Group-123906497747/

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Written by the Rev. Dan Laydon, Rector of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne

Circus Escape Room - Coming to your Faith Community!

Are you looking for a small group team-building experience for your vestry, youth group, or other ministry at church?  We have something for YOU!  An escape room is a physical and mental adventure game where participants solve a series of puzzles using clues to complete an objective in a certain amount of time.  (You are not physically locked in a room - think of it more as a room full of puzzles.)  Escape room experiences have popped up all over Northern Indiana, and this year's Youth Summer Camp provided an original circus-themed escape room experience for all staff and campers in 5th-9th grade.  It was so well received, we'd like to take it on the road! 

The adventure, designed and led by Kim Gray, lasts about an hour and a half and can be set up in a spare room at your church with a few extra furniture items.  Typical escape rooms can be costly for a group - around $20 a person.  We recommend a free will offering to the diocesan youth camp scholarship fund for $5-10 a person for a 4-10 person group.  Accommodations can be made for smaller and larger groups - so please make inquiries if you have questions.  

If you are interested in reserving this activity for your church, please contact Kim Gray at episcopalcamp@gmail.com and write Escape Room Request in the subject line.  Times will be scheduled for fall and winter.  (*Remember, as always, if you participated in this adventure already, be sure to keep the details to yourself so others can experience this fun firsthand!)

This traveling circus adventure is one you won't want to miss! 

Submitted by Kim Gray

Racial Reconciliation in a Small Midwestern City

What does racial reconciliation look like in a small midwestern city?  This is the question we, at Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Marion, Indiana have been grappling with for the past ten years.  The priorities of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the current racial situation in the United States add urgency to our situation.  

We work under the basic premise that marginalized and oppressed groups are the leaders and experts when issues of racism arise.  Gethsemane is primarily an historically white congregation. 

About 20% of our population in Marion are people of color, and many of the African-American families have deep historic roots in our community.  While Indiana is technically a northern state and did not live under Jim Crow legislation during the 20th Century, racism has overshadowed much of its history. During the antebellum period, Marion served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, but in 1930, two young black men were publicly lynched in the Courthouse Square.  The lasting scars of this event still provide a background for future events in town.  In addition, adjacent communities were well known as Sundown Towns, at least until the 1950’s.  Sundown Towns are communities where Black people were not allowed to be outside after sunset.  Understanding the impact of historic trauma and acknowledging continuing implicit bias are clear goals of our church.

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Gethsemane is a small but vital congregation.  We are located between two small Christian liberal arts colleges and as such, have attracted a number of students and faculty who are unsatisfied with conservative Christian responses to social justice issues.  Our priest, Father Warnock, has been involved in reconciliation ministries for over fifteen years and in 2016, our church officially became a member of the Community of the Cross of Nails. Over the years, we have held worthwhile reconciliation events, involving deep conversations on issues of the role of women, human sexuality, poverty and white privilege. 

But the reality remains:  years ago, when we reached out to a leading Black pastor to see if we could work together on issues of racial reconciliation, we were kindly but firmly told that he did not know if he could trust us.   We understand that the lack of trust of the privileged by the oppressed is a realistic response.

Over the years, we have made intentional steps to become a reflective community on issues of race.  We have had several book studies and discussion groups, looking at aspects of discrimination.  We partnered with a local Black church to have shared monthly dinners to try to build relationships.  We intermittently have supported rallies against racism.  Two years ago, we did a day-long seminar, focusing on issues of white privilege, which was attended primarily by college students and members of our congregation. Our rector has consistently used the pulpit to address issues of racism head on.  These have all been productive activities.

And yet, as we know that racism in the U.S. and in Marion is systemic and not just an issue that can be addressed through personal reflection and change, we have been stymied on how to go more deeply into these issues.  (It should be noted that individual members have been deeply involved in political efforts over the past several years.)

During the past few months, two events have given us a chance to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”.  In April, a young Black man, who is acknowledged to have mental health problems, was arrested in Marion.  He was, in fact, only partially clothed and did have outstanding warrants.  However, he was videotaped being held down by five white officers, hit, and apparently not handled humanely. When his family and the Black Ministerial Association met with city officials, they were told only that investigations were ongoing, no details to be discussed.  Our priest attended the first meeting with city officials and, as the only white clergy member present, was invited to participate in further meetings and negotiations.  At this point, some mediation has been accomplished, though the outcomes are still not entirely clear for the community.  Through standing with the Black community in this situation, our church was able to play some small role in the process of systemic change that may eventually lead to reconciliation through trust-building.

A few weeks later, the white president of our school board “liked” a racist meme on Facebook.  When confronted, she apologized and some members of the white community were quick to say we should, as Christians, just forgive her mistake.   Further research on her Facebook page, however, verified that she had a pattern of supporting anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and racist posts.  Again leaders of the Black community asked for her resignation.  They were told that they were the only ones who had complained and that the problem had been resolved.  However, as an elected official and still active member of the school board, we at Gethsemane again felt that action needed to be taken to support Christian values of equity.  So at the ensuing public school board meeting, we were able to bring out a sizable number of members of our congregation to stand with the Black community.  The member in question did soon resign and we are hopeful that this event gives Marion the prodding it needs to look more deeply at how these issues impact the lives of families and children in our community.

Kresha Warnock, pictured with a Croatian flag - celebrating after Croatia beat Russia in the World Cup

Kresha Warnock, pictured with a Croatian flag - celebrating after Croatia beat Russia in the World Cup

We, at Gethsemane,  continue to struggle with our ongoing role  as a reconciling parish.  What is our role in terms of changing the hearts and minds of those in the white community whose knowledge and understanding of racism are limited, but whose action or lack of action often support discrimination and bias?   None of us has been invited to speak at a royal wedding, but is it our first responsibility to speak out against injustice and racism as Bishop Michael Curry has done in this politically charged environment?  We live in a time in which the impact of racism and other biases are more and more evident in both individual and policy actions in the U.S. and around the world.   We can never do enough to support the oppressed, but how does our faith community and reconciliation team react?   Is it ethical to support only individualistic, incremental change at at time when families are being torn apart and whole large groups of people are living in psychological and physical risk every day, in our country alone?  What systemic changes is the faith community able to impact and what is our responsibility in that area?  We will continue to struggle with these issues as we move forward.

Written by Kresha Warnock for the Cross of Nails Newsletter,
Member of Gethsemane Episcopal Church, Marion IN