I started writing this blog post a couple of days ago when the news seemed reasonably quiet and I thought perhaps this week I might take this opportunity to share a beautiful story of a ministry that for 75 years has responded with care and compassion to needs around the world. And, I will get to that in a few minutes but the events of the last few days prompt me to begin along a different theme.
As you, dear readers, are all probably aware by now, the Resolution Review Committee is charged with addressing the many resolutions that come to us from various conventions and councils. Sometimes over the last few years, events in the news have taken priority of place even when they might not relate to any resolution in the books. This is one of those times. The tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile cannot go unnoticed this week. I have no resolution before me that addresses police shootings and so I feel at a loss as to what I might say. A dear friend from the Diocese of Massachusetts posted earlier today on social media –
Almost two years after Ferguson, the ravages of white police violence against black men continue unabated. Watching the video footage of the last two days–of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile being killed, of their loved ones grieving their murder–has broken my heart. No, offering tears and prayers is not enough, though neither, for that matter, is action for its own sake. I am honestly at a loss for what “enough” is. But these tragedies are one more call to the white community. A call to end our own terrible, too long silence about what the armed power of the law does on our behalf, unwittingly or not, in this country. I pray, for myself as well as anyone else, that we hear it, let it sink in, and come awake. Ending this horror must be our work too.
Our prayers are definitely in order but so is our action – though like my friend, I, too, am at a loss. Where do we begin? Perhaps we can take a cue from the Gospel message for this Sunday, the story of the Good Samaritan. We are Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s neighbors. Let us demonstrate our love for these men and all the others we have mourned over the last few years by not allowing these events to be quickly forgotten. As opportunities to speak out in response become more available, I will keep you informed. And, I ask that you keep me abreast of your local endeavors to change the culture that permits these tragedies to continue.
Before I move on, let me share a link to an article in The Huffington Post, “Willful Whiteness: The Real Reason for the Police Killings of African Americans,” written by Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Professor of Theology at Chicago theological Seminary – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-susan-brooks-thistlethwaite/willful-whiteness-the-rea_b_10864784.html
There is a ministry among us that has faithfully demonstrated their love for our neighbors for three-quarters of a century. Last summer when your deputies were in Salt Lake City for General Convention, we celebrated Episcopal Relief and Development’s (ERD) 75th year of bringing hope and healing to a hurting world. And, we passed a resolution commending their work:
A014: Celebrate Episcopal Relief & Development’s 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church commend Episcopal Relief & Development for strengthening the bonds of Anglican unity by partnering with The Episcopal Church’s Anglican and Episcopal counterparts in nearly 40 countries worldwide, and for utilizing local assets to best steward resources and encourage long-term, holistic, and sustainable change to help heal a hurting world; and be it further
Resolved, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church encourages dioceses, congregations, and individuals to celebrate and support the life-saving work of Episcopal Relief & Development during this, their 75th year, and in years to come.
I’m guessing that most of you know of this fine organization and, hopefully, have supported their mission through the years but, for those of you who may know them from name only, one way we can celebrate their work is by getting to know them better. From their website I learned that their mission statement reads:
- Episcopal Relief & Development is the compassionate response of The Episcopal Church to human suffering in the world. Hearing God’s call to seek and serve Christ in all persons and to respect the dignity of every human being, Episcopal Relief & Development serves to bring together the generosity of Episcopalians and others with the needs of the world.
- Episcopal Relief & Development faithfully administers the funds that are received from the Church and raised from other sources. It provides relief in times of disaster and promotes sustainable development by identifying and addressing the root causes of suffering.
- Episcopal Relief & Development cherishes its partnerships within the Anglican Communion, with ecumenical bodies and with others who share a common vision for justice and peace among all people.
And they take their mandate from Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel:
Lord, when was it that
We saw you hungry and gave you food?
We saw you thirsty and gave you something to drink?
We saw you a stranger and welcomed you?
We saw you sick and took care of you?
We saw you in prison and visited you?
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:37-40, NRSV)
ERD began its ministry as The Presiding Bishop’s Fund in 1940 with its initial mission to assist refugees fleeing Europe during World War II. During the 1960s and 70s, the plight of people around the world suffering from diseases and disasters broadened the scope of their work. In 2000, the name was changed to Episcopal Relief and Development to acknowledge the emphasis on disaster relief and integrated community development. Their website states that “Today, all of Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs follow an integrated model, implemented through a network of partnerships to support initiatives that:
- Alleviate hunger and improve food supply
- Create economic opportunities and strengthen communities
- Promote health and fight disease
- Respond to disasters and rebuild communities
- Realigned and expanded program focus areas to address cross-cutting themes such as gender equality, micro-finance, disaster risk reduction and climate change”
ERD reaches over 3 million people annually with partners in approximately 40 countries.
We are, indeed, pleased to share in their celebration of these last 75 years! If you want to know how you can get involved, ERD has many suggestions:
We invite you to connect with Episcopal Relief & Development and do your part to help us heal a hurting world. Whether you would like to pray for our work and partner communities, make a donation or stay informed with the latest news, we offer a host of ways to get involved. Take the first step and learn more about your opportunities by clicking the links below.
- Gifts for Life – Give an entire community the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive with Gifts for Life. Make a lasting impact with symbolic gifts ranging from medicine for children in need to farming tools that help families earn an income and improve their nutrition. Honor loved ones for Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions.
- Donate Now – Empower individuals and communities by contributing to the fund of your choice. Our donation process is easy to use, quick and secure.
- Monthly Giving – Partner with us monthly. Select the fund of your choice to make a long-term impact in an area that is close to your heart.
- Other Giving Opportunities – Make a memorial gift or gift of stock, or participate in a corporate matching campaign. These are just a few of the additional ways you can make a contribution. Learn more here.
- Act – Find out how you can take action and get involved with Episcopal Relief & Development efforts on a local, national and global level.
- Stay Informed – Get updates on the latest Episcopal Relief & Development news by reading our blog, following our social media channels and signing up to receive our newsletters.
- Careers – Join in our mission to transform communities and empower people to create lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease. Learn how you can apply here.
You can find more information about Episcopal Relief and Development at their website – http://www.episcopalrelief.org/
Let us pray for Episcopal Relief and development –
Loving and merciful God, you bestow your grace on all of your children: Remember our sisters and brothers throughout the world who, in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, strengthen communities, empower the poor, nourish the hungry, restore the sick and uplift those affected by disaster; and uphold Episcopal Relief & Development for the next seventy-five years, so that your Kingdom might be known to all people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
And, let us also pray for forgiveness in these days of tragedy –
In the midst of the ever present stream of injustices
inflicted upon the weak, the poor, and the marginalized,
we confess our complicity in nurturing the status quo
through silence and inaction.
Unlike past and present day prophets,
we stood by while our sisters and brothers suffered
at the hands of the privileged and powerful.
So often, we turned a blind eye to the sufferings of those
who were looked down upon
because of powerlessness, poverty, or the hue of their skin.
We confess our commitment to being the church
where “all are one” and “all are welcome”
so we ask you to make us into the church that intercedes
on behalf of those who are cast aside for the sake of the establishment.
We ask your comfort on all those who mourn that they would know your peace which passes understanding.
All these we ask in the Name of your Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
(adapted from The United Church of Christ http://www.ucc.org/justice_racism)
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee