As one historically black Episcopal church closes, others face strong headwinds Priest-in-Charge Lebanon, OH Tags Remember Holy Land Christians on Jerusalem Sunday, June 20 American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem An Evening with Presiding Bishop Curry and Iconographer Kelly Latimore Episcopal Migration Ministries via Zoom June 23 @ 6 p.m. ET Rector Smithfield, NC Curate (Associate & Priest-in-Charge) Traverse City, MI Inaugural Diocesan Feast Day Celebrating Juneteenth San Francisco, CA (and livestream) June 19 @ 2 p.m. PT Ethnic Ministries Youth Minister Lorton, VA Associate Priest for Pastoral Care New York, NY Episcopal Migration Ministries’ Virtual Prayer Vigil for World Refugee Day Facebook Live Prayer Vigil June 20 @ 7 p.m. ET In-person Retreat: Thanksgiving Trinity Retreat Center (West Cornwall, CT) Nov. 24-28 Virtual Celebration of the Jerusalem Princess Basma Center Zoom Conversation June 19 @ 12 p.m. ET Ya no son extranjeros: Un diálogo acerca de inmigración Una conversación de Zoom June 22 @ 7 p.m. ET Priest Associate or Director of Adult Ministries Greenville, SC Press Release Service Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York Hires Reverend Kevin W. VanHook, II as Executive Director Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York Missioner for Disaster Resilience Sacramento, CA TryTank Experimental Lab and York St. John University of England Launch Survey to Study the Impact of Covid-19 on the Episcopal Church TryTank Experimental Lab Assistant/Associate Rector Morristown, NJ This Summer’s Anti-Racism Training Online Course (Diocese of New Jersey) June 18-July 16 Submit an Event Listing Family Ministry Coordinator Baton Rouge, LA The Church Pension Fund Invests $20 Million in Impact Investment Fund Designed to Preserve Workforce Housing Communities Nationwide Church Pension Group Featured Jobs & Calls Submit a Job Listing The Church Investment Group Commends the Taskforce on the Theology of Money on its report, The Theology of Money and Investing as Doing Theology Church Investment Group Rector Tampa, FL Curate Diocese of Nebraska Associate Rector Columbus, GA Rector Belleville, IL Rector Shreveport, LA Rector Bath, NC Rector Martinsville, VA Featured Events Canon for Family Ministry Jackson, MS Submit a Press Release Bishop Diocesan Springfield, IL Rector Albany, NY Rector Hopkinsville, KY Seminary of the Southwest announces appointment of two new full time faculty members Seminary of the Southwest Course Director Jerusalem, Israel Rector Knoxville, TN Join the Episcopal Diocese of Texas in Celebrating the Pauli Murray Feast Online Worship Service June 27 Cathedral Dean Boise, ID By Yonat ShimronPosted Dec 12, 2018 Director of Administration & Finance Atlanta, GA Rector Collierville, TN Rector Pittsburgh, PA Rector (FT or PT) Indian River, MI Rector Washington, DC Assistant/Associate Rector Washington, DC Rector/Priest in Charge (PT) Lisbon, ME Associate Rector for Family Ministries Anchorage, AK New Berrigan Book With Episcopal Roots Cascade Books Director of Music Morristown, NJ Rector and Chaplain Eugene, OR AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to PrintFriendlyPrintFriendlyShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to EmailEmailShare to MoreAddThis Assistant/Associate Priest Scottsdale, AZ Acolytes and a crucifer from St. Ambrose Episcopal Church stand outside All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Warrenton, N.C., during a closing service on Dec. 8, 2018. Photo: Yonat Shimron/Religion News Service[Religion News Service] On a chilly December morning, 100 years and one week after its sanctuary opened, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, an African-American congregation with a proud history, was formally closed.Bishop Samuel Rodman presided over the Eucharistic service in an elementary school a block away from the church, where weekly services ended more than three years ago. Several longtime members returned to read Scriptures and sing hymns. Afterward, the group of 100, including history buffs and well-wishers from North Carolina and Virginia, shared a meal of fried chicken and baked beans.All Saints is hardly alone among mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations. Faced with dwindling members, crumbling infrastructure and costly maintenance, some 6,000 to 10,000 churches shutter each year, according to one estimate. More closures may be in the offing as surveys point to a decline in church attendance across the country.But All Saints is an example of an even sharper decline.Historically African-American churches across the South are fast disappearing. Some were created after the Civil War when slavery was abolished; others in the crucible of Jim Crow, when whites who had long relegated blacks to the church balcony no longer tolerated them at all.The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina once boasted 60 such churches. Today, a mere dozen are left and, of those, only three have full-time clergy. Epiphany Episcopal Church in Rocky Mount, N.C., closed two years ago; at least one other is in danger of shuttering next year.Of course, African-Americans have been welcome in all Episcopal churches for years — and the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, who served as bishop of the North Carolina diocese before leading the 1.7 million-member denomination, is black.At Saturday’s (Dec. 8) closing service, there was a recognition that it was in part progress in race relations that has doomed African-American congregations. But there was as much tribute paid to the sacrificial work of so many pioneering black Episcopalians.“Jesus provided those saints with the fortitude … to say, ‘We belong to the house of God,’” said the Rev. Nita Byrd, chaplain at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, who delivered the closing service sermon. “We are not aliens in the Christian family. We are not second-class citizens in the Episcopal Church.”As North Carolina wrestles with the aftermath of Jim Crow — the University of North Carolina’s trustees have recommended that a racially motivated Confederate statue torn down by protesters in August be housed in a $5.3 million museum to be built on campus — there is a sense that these churches slowly fading from view also have a story to tell about the racial history of the region.Members of All Saints hope that story is preserved.“Not only was All Saints important to us, but to the community and the nation,” said Wilhelmina Ratliff, a middle school teacher who is one of the last six remaining members.The church was formed in 1892 — about five years before Jim Crow made it nearly impossible for blacks to remain in white churches. It was not the first black Episcopal church in North Carolina. That honor belongs to St. Cyprian’s in New Bern, which got its start in 1866 and remains open.But All Saints in particular benefited from, and nourished, a succession of notable black priests. Among them was Henry Beard Delany, who would become one of the first two black bishops consecrated in the Episcopal Church, in 1918. (His daughters, Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany, told about their civil rights struggles in their 1993 best-selling book, “Having Our Say.”)Henry Delany, who was born into slavery in Georgia, preached at All Saints for more than two decades, traveling an hour by train from Raleigh one Sunday a month.His daughter Sarah recalled: “When Papa became a bishop, he occasionally was encouraged by a friendly conductor to take the Pullman instead of the Jim Crow car. But Papa would say no. He would be amiable about it, though. He would say to the conductor, ‘That’s OK. I want to ride with my people, see how they’re doing.’ And he’d go sit in the Jim Crow car.”Delany helped establish a parochial school at All Saints where young African-Americans were educated. Later he worked to raise money for a new church building. Delany wanted the new building, which eventually rose on the corner of West Franklin and Front streets, to honor a late black Episcopal priest with roots in Warren County.That priest, Thomas White Cain, was the first black Episcopalian to serve alongside white priests with equal voice and vote in the national legislative body of the Episcopal Church, the General Conference. (He died when he was swept away by a 1900 hurricane that destroyed Galveston Island, Texas.)Delany was able to raise $1,500 for the All Saints building, which would also be known as the Thomas White Cain Memorial. Of that, $500 was pledged from among black Episcopalians across the country.Delany and Cain are only two of a dozen trailblazing black Episcopal priests who came through All Saints or the larger Warren County, whose population to this day is estimated to be 51 percent African-American.“These were people of remarkable achievement working under very difficult circumstances, underpaid, underresourced, willing to travel great distances to minister to far-flung congregations,” said the Rev. Brooks Graebner, the diocesan historian.Though never large, the congregation was a vital part of the community. In later years, it operated a center for special-needs children in its basement. Scholarships from the church sent local students to college. The rectory next door was used as a shelter for victims of domestic violence.“It was a vibrant place, full of energy and enthusiasm,” said Robin Williams, a retired juvenile court counselor who attended the church for 25 years.The Rev. Jemonde Taylor, rector of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh, another historically black church, worries about what the decline of churches like All Saints might mean for recruiting black clergy.“More than 75 percent of black priests come out of historically black congregations,” said Taylor. “Those black churches lift people up for ministry. So if we don’t have black churches, will we no longer have black priests?”The Episcopal Church does not keep records on race, but a Pew Research survey found that about 4 percent of Episcopal Church members identify as black.The remaining members of All Saints now attend other Episcopal churches nearby. But they are not quite ready to abandon their old home. A group is exploring the possibility of reopening the closed structure to house some kind of ministry for the community, perhaps in partnership with another group. First, it needs some repairs, which is why the closing service was held at the elementary school.“We have hope,” said Ratliff. “We know this is not it. Everybody’s coming together on the same page. What will the rest of the story be? We don’t know yet.”
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The devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile this weekend, killing more than 700 people, hit close to home for many members of the USC community, particularly four USC students studying abroad in Santiago who had been there less than two weeks and students with family in Chile.The four USC students, Andres Blumer, a junior majoring in international relations (global business); Kaitlin King, a junior majoring in anthropology; Marianna Singwi-Ferrono, a junior majoring in Spanish and international relations; and Ryan Soderberg, a junior majoring in business administration, survived uninjured, but said the hours after the quake hit Santiago were dizzying. Because phone and power lines were out, the members of the group had a hard time communicating with each other and with their families in the United States.For students with family members in Chile, communication was just as difficult. Cell phone lines were down, and many residents of Chile do not have land lines.Answers trickled in slowly for both groups.The four students verified that everyone in the group was OK but only after driving around Santiago to find each other. Students in Los Angeles confirmed their family members’ safety but only after long hours wrought with anxious anticipation. And though their immediate questions were answered and their concerns quelled, for many there is still a felling of uncertainty.Experiencing history abroadThe city of Santiago, north of the earthquake’s epicenter, is at a relative standstill. Residents are staying in, buildings are damaged, roads are closed and public transportation is down. The four students, who have been in Chile less than two weeks, are not sure when they’ll return to school, when they’ll be able to use their cell phones again and, for some of them, when they will have power.Just more than 24 hours ago, the city was shaking.Blumer, one of the four students in Chile, was staying at an apartment in a Santiago suburb, north of the earthquake’s epicenter. He was sleeping peacefully, he said, until the shaking began.The walls shook. The floor rumbled. The sound of glass breaking was muffled by the screeches of car alarms going off all down the street. Blumer had to hold on to avoid crashing to the floor. Amid the chaos of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the coast of Chile early Saturday morning, the four USC students studying abroad found themselves thrust into a the heart of disaster.The students are all living in separate homes in the suburbs of Santiago. Waking up to the earth’s violent shaking, they were forced to navigate the catastrophe with no power, no familiar faces and with few people who spoke their native language.Blumer said his neighbors gathered to make sure everyone was accounted for, but everyone was speaking fast and with an accent it couldn’t quite cut through. Even the radio news, he said, “was all very fast and in Spanish so hard for me to understand.”He did not know the full extent of the damage until the electricity came back later in the morning and he could turn on the news.Cell phone lines were also down, and other members of the group could not reach Blumer.“My host family and I drove to Andres Blumer’s house to make sure he was safe, since I couldn’t reach him by phone,” Soderberg wrote in an e-mail. “I was happy to find him smoking a cigarette with the rest of his apartment building.”Blumer, who was lucky enough to get Internet and power back within a few hours of the earthquake, e-mailed his parents and the parents of the other students in Chile to assure them that everyone was OK.Although the situation became clearer as the day went on and worry turned to relief as the students connected with each and their families, the chaos did not end there.Aftershocks, some reaching magnitudes above 6.5, continued to shake the city. Power remained out in many areas, and students were told to stay in their houses. Most of the city’s police force has been called to areas that have been worse hit and the city has become prone to crime.Though Santiago fared better than other areas, Blumer said, the news reports have put the disaster in context for the four USC students.“It’s just starting to hit me that we … just lived through history,” Blumer wrote.A world awayThey got the news first by phone.Natalia Bogolasky Fliman, a graduate student studying journalism, first heard from her friend in New York, who had been on the phone with someone in Chile at the time the earthquake hit. Cristina Pandol, a senior majoring in psychology, got the CNN news update on her cell phone.The news came first, but information about their family members came later.Pandol said she first called her mom, who had been trying to get in touch with family members. Pandol began calling too, but because cell phones were down it took an hour and a half before she got to anyone.“I was lucky I could talk to my dad only an hour or an hour and a half after the earthquake happened and I could hear from him and he was okay,” she said.Bogolasky Fliman was able to reach her family within an hour and a half, she said, and verified that everyone was OK.Both natives of Chile, Bogolasky Fliman and Pandol said earthquakes are a common occurrence, but this one was different.“This is huge,” Bogolasky Fliman said. “Even though if you grow up in Chile you’re used to waking up in the middle of the night with tremors, this was stronger and longer.”But Chile’s history of earthquakes, Pandol said, might have been what helped keep so many people safe.In 1960, a catastrophic 9.6-magnitude earthquake struck Chile. Since then, earthquake preparedness has been a priority for the country.“Anything that would have fallen fell in 1960, and anything that’s been built since then has had top-notch earthquake stability,” Pandol said. “Everything has been to prepare for another 9.6 and this was an 8.8, which is still really large, but it’s not a 9.6 and we’ve been preparing for a 9.6 since 1960 … Everyone knows what to do.”Although Pandol’s and Bogolasky Fliman’s friends and family survived unharmed, Pandol said some of her family members are still lacking water, gas and power.Two of Pandol’s aunts live in Santiago, but only one has power. The two families have banded together, bathing in one’s swimming pool, since there is still no water.Still, Pandol and Bogolasky Fliman are grateful their families were not further south, close to Concepción.“Some highways in [Santiago] are damaged, some of my friends’ houses are really damaged, but in Santiago it’s not as bad as cities in the south like Concepción,” Bogolasky Fliman said. “Things are really far from being normal but it’s not as bad as it is in the South.”The road aheadThe earthquake has left 700 dead and two million displaced so far. Roads are closed and power and gas lines still down. The aftershocks have faded, but the uncertainty is only growing.The four USC students have found their experience changed dramatically, and there’s no indication as to when it might return to a comfortable routine.“Things right now are pretty crazy as people are vandalizing and ransacking supermarkets,” Soderberg wrote. “The U.S. Embassy has notified us saying that we are not allowed to leave Santiago. My host family says I am only allowed to leave during the day.”Tracey Seslen, an assistant professor of clinical finance and business economics who has lived in Chile and traveled there with student groups, said the country will rebound once the initial shock has passed.“In my opinion, Chile is the most first-world of the countries in Latin America,” Seslen said. “I think they’re going to recover from this in a fairly short period of time.”That recovery time might not be quick enough for the group of USC Marshall School of Business students slated to head to Chile over spring break to make their trip, however.“There’s a group of freshmen in [Learning about International Commerce (LINC) Program] going to be going over spring break, and I would bet that they’re not going to be able to go,” Seslen said. “I saw pictures of the airport, which I’ve been to many, many times, and it looked like a disaster area.”The students in the program don’t know any more than what they have heard on the news. Several students said they hadn’t heard anything from the program, and one had spoken with the organizer but still didn’t have a definitive answer.Despite the questions that remain, the USC students with family in Chile and those studying abroad in Chile said they are simply thankful that the worst has passed.“It is great to know that the Trojan Family exists outside of USC,” Soderberg wrote.Correction: Tracey Seslen was originally identified as Teresa Selsen.