Daughters of the King: Mission Trip to Honduras

God gave me an idea and a nudge at a meeting of the Daughters of the King Province III board last year.  I should invite those present to join me on a mission to Honduras.  Carol White from the Diocese of Southern Virginia accepted the invitation followed by Joyce Frenz from my own chapter at St. John’s, Franklin.  It wasn’t long before her husband Randall, a Lutheran pastor, signed on as well.  We had a team!

I now marvel at the path we took to get to Danli, Honduras.  We were four individuals answering a call but really not sure what God was calling us to do.  We sometimes wandered off the path and I was reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

A mission trip was not new to me – I had accompanied my husband numerous times on his veterinary mission trips, but this time I would be leading a team with a very different mission.  Lord, what would you have me do?  My husband’s veterinary team was working with SAMS missionary Jeannie Loving, who just happened to be a Daughter of the King.  We communicated with her and after much correspondence, prayer, and a shared daily devotional, God guided us to a plan: a quiet day, a Bible study, and a service project.  It was a very ambitious plan that would require money for materials, interpreters, and in-country transportation for us and the participants.  We applied for and received a generous grant from the National Daughters of the King Self-Denial Fund to cover those expenses.  God gave us the plan and provided the means.  Now we had to trust Him to show us the how.

Ten months later, February 10, 2017, we finally arrived in Honduras.   The first task was to organize our service project.  Our plan was to assemble and distribute mother/baby kits to the public health clinics.  In Honduras, any woman going to the hospital or clinic to deliver her baby is required to bring with her a shirt, cap, socks, receiving blanket and two diapers for the baby and two sanitary napkins and an adult diaper for her.  Many families earn an average of only $20 a month and it can be a real hardship to procure these items.  We had brought with us more than 200 each of baby onesies, hats and pairs of socks donated by individuals in the US.  With the help of local Daughters, we packed all the required items in a 2 ½ gallon zip lock bag.  We included a card written in Spanish stating this kit was from Honduran and US Daughters of the King who were praying for the mother and baby.  These same Daughters accompanied us to the clinics to deliver the kits.  At one clinic, the doctor in charge clapped his hands and exclaimed he was so thrilled it gave him goosebumps.  He ushered us into a room where two very young women had just delivered babies.  We prayed with the new mothers and handed each of them a kit.  Priceless.

Extra baby items and cash to purchase diapers, etc. were left with the local Daughters of the King so they could continue with this project.

Meanwhile Pastor Randall met with ten women for a Bible study.   They came from four different Episcopal churches and some had ridden about an hour on a non-air-conditioned bus  to get there.  They were attentive, inquisitive and faithful in attendance.  We left extra study books for these women to lead Bible studies in their home parishes.

The main event was our Quiet Day which was attended by more than 50 women and about a dozen children.  The morning program was a series of songs and scripture readings with intervals of silent meditation.  After lunch, we opened with a guided meditation followed by a service to admit nine new Daughters of the King to the Order.  A celebration of Holy Eucharist closed out a beautiful, spirit filled day.  It was a great day in the Kingdom!

I had a vision but I never envisioned the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.  We hope by reading this you will be inspired to step out in faith to do a mission at home or abroad.

Kathy Paulo is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Franklin, PA, and has been a member of the Daughters of the King since 2005. 

Reflections on Holy Land Pilgrimage 2017

During the second half of May, I had the privilege of leading an Eastertide Holy Land Pilgrimage. The group of 25 included pilgrims from both the United States and Canada, 11 of whom were from the Erie area. It was my fifth trip to Israel and Palestine, the first one in 1985 and then four since 2004. In some ways, the spiritual impact of journeying to the Holy Land had been accomplished for me in previous trips. However, leading a group, sharing their experiences and seeing things anew through their eyes was a blessing for me. And the itinerary included a few places I had not been before.

We began with three days in Galilee, staying at the beautiful and restful Pilgerhaus, a German Benedictine guest house. From that base, we saw Nazareth, Cana, and other sites near or around the Sea of Galilee. A particular joy was worshiping on Sunday morning at Christ Church, Nazareth, an Episcopal Church packed with parishioners and pilgrims for a Eucharist in both Arabic and English. In Galilee, I was especially aware that we were immersed in the sights and sounds of the places where Jesus grew up, and where his vision and mission were forged.

Our journey then headed south through the West Bank where we saw vividly the difficulties and challenges of what is often called “the situation,” that is, the continuing occupation of Palestinian territories. This includes the region of Samaria and the town of Nablus, where Jacob’s Well can be found, as well as an Episcopal parish and hospital. The Diocese of Jerusalem supports many such hospitals, clinics, and schools, often in places of great need. Further south, we renewed our Baptismal Covenant at the Jordan River and went on to two days in Bethlehem, arriving the same day President Trump had been there. In addition to the Church of the Nativity, we visited ministries sponsored by Roman Catholics and Lutherans. After a visit to Hebron and the Tombs of the Patriarchs, we made our way to Jerusalem for our final four days.

While in Jerusalem we stayed within the walls of the Old City at a guest house in the former seminary of the Latin Patriarchate. We visited all the holy sites one would expect including the recently restored Tomb of Jesus (Holy Sepulchre). We shared in joyous worship at St. George’s Episcopal Cathedral where I was invited to concelebrate with two bishops from England, one from Trinidad and Tobago, my colleague and co-leader the Dean of Hamilton, and the Dean of Jerusalem, who is an Arab Israeli. And this really was just another typical Sunday at St. George’s!

Along the way our group celebrated the Eucharist on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, in the Shepherd’s Fields in Bethlehem, and, on the final day, at Abu Gosh, one of the sites which recalls Emmaus. At each of these sites, the Roman Catholic custodians were most gracious in providing for our celebrations like any other group of pilgrims. As we were about to leave Abu Gosh, I noted that the statue at the Lady Altar looked like a modern rendition of Our Lady of Walsingham, the principal English image of Mary. As I drew closer, I saw a plaque with the Canterbury Cross on it beside the altar. Stitch by stitch, the broken Body of Christ is being repaired.

In the pilgrimage brochure, I had written, “A pilgrimage to the Holy Land changes things. Past and present, sacred and secular – these are seen in new ways, somehow not so neatly separated as we usually view them. To be at the great biblical sites and the historic holy places alongside the current life of Israel and Palestine is a singular experience which changes how we understand things, and often changes us.” Once again this proved to be true in the experiences of our group. Talk of the next pilgrimage is already beginning.

The Very Rev. Dr. John P. Downey, Dean, the Cathedral of St. Paul

Building Relationships

Collaboration and interdependence are keys to the deepening of our Christian life together. We’ve given considerable attention over the course of the last decade to the idea that, as a diocese, we really are One Church.  Yes, we all find ourselves in different contexts, are various sizes, and have different charisms of the Spirit, and still we are united in mission and witness that make us one—all in it together as the Body of Christ.  Our challenge to bring the Good News to the world is more apparent than ever and our ability to rise to that challenge is directly related to our willingness to collaborate with strategic partners and rely more heavily on each other.

This fall we take our collaboration with the Diocese of Western New York to a new depth by sharing our Conventions with each other—we’ll take a large group to their Convention, and they’ll bring a large group to ours.  We’ll have a chance to meet new people, see how another diocese works, and experience new mission horizons.  We’ll also have an opportunity to share our particular gifts and richness of our diocesan community.  If you are interested in attending the Diocese of Western New York’s convention, you can visit our website for more information and to sign up.

Our convention will follow a bit of a different format this year.  Though we’ll conduct the necessary business of Convention, the primary focus of our time will be building relationships and having significant and high impact conversations about the future of our life together.  The Convention this fall will be more important than ever, and I appeal to you as your bishop to make every effort to be present.  Your voice and your perspective are a critical piece of the next phase of mission.

You’ve heard me say many times that no one is going to innovate in mission and ministry for us.  There is no group ‘out there’ in the Church that is going to overcome our challenges and unlock our potential for us.  This is our call—right here and right now.  I have every confidence that God is about to provide for us ‘infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’

Election Call for the Ninth Bishop of Bethlehem

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

When you gave me the honor of serving as your bishop provisional in March 2014, I pledged to spend several years working with you to discern the Diocese of Bethlehem’s common mission and update and streamline financial, governance and administrative practices. With thanksgiving for your remarkable progress in assuring a faithful future for the diocese, today I am calling for the election of the ninth bishop of Bethlehem.

In consultation with the Rt. Rev. Clay Matthews, the Episcopal Church’s bishop for pastoral development, and Judy Stark, a consultant recommended by his office who is a daughter of the Diocese of Bethlehem, the Standing Committee [LINK:  https://www.diobeth.org/about/governance-and-administration/standing-committee/] will soon seek members for a search committee to discern a slate of nominees for bishop. In time, the Standing Committee will also name a transitions committee to oversee the new bishop’s consecration and welcome to the diocese. Although the final calendar for the search process will be determined by the Standing Committee, I anticipate that we will elect the ninth bishop of Bethlehem in the spring of 2018 and consecrate and seat that person in the fall of that year.

During my remaining time as your bishop provisional, I look forward to fostering the shared values and relationships that emerged from our recent diocesan pilgrimage [LINK:  https://www.diobeth.org/returning-from-pilgrimage-what-next/]and continuing to work with you on developing a mission strategy to unite our response to God’s call. You will receive further updates about the search for your next bishop from the Standing Committee and, once it is named, from the search committee.

I continue to be grateful for this opportunity to serve with you for a time, and I ask you to join me in praying for the leaders in the Diocese of Bethlehem who will participate the search for your next bishop.

Faithfully,

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The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe

Be Part of the Conversation

yoga-1146280_640I detest pigeons.  But more than actual pigeons, I really detest the pigeon pose in yoga.  It involves folding one leg under you in such a way that stretches your hip, while the other leg stretches behind you and your arms and head rest on the mat.  Ideally that’s what it involves.  When I fold into pigeon, there is nothing ideal about it.  Without fail, my leg goes to sleep, the numbness disintegrates into pins-and-needles, and I begin wondering whether I will lose my leg altogether from a lack of blood flow; by the time I exit this pose, will I look more like the one-legged maimed pigeons of cities than a stretched and rested human?

With such manifestations of yogic skill and grace, you may wonder why in the world I continue to attend the Monday yoga class offered in my town.  It’s twofold, an intertwining of personal spirituality and corporate kingdom spreading.  Engaging with me can be a hyper experience, as I frequently bounce between ideas and exhibit a rather deplorable lack of focus.  Too often my thoughts are racing ahead to the next minute, hour, or week instead of being focused in the task or moment at hand.  It isn’t conducive to really good thinking or praying; it doesn’t foster listening to others or to God- or even to myself.  So along with reading on the topic, I have chosen to take up yoga to practice mindfulness.

To a degree, it is working.  Depending on the pose, I can focus on my breathing better than in the past; I can sometimes translate that skill beyond the studio into the ‘real world.’  But that’s not the sole reason I’m at the yoga class.  Last summer at Holy Trinity, we began exploring our identity and adjusting our programs and worship to live into that identity.  As a congregation, we developed our core values, penned blue-and-brewsthem, refined them, and hung them on the wall; they guide us in all decision-making.  We decided to ‘go public’ about being a congregation that embraces all people and began reimaging and rewriting worship services to include the musical talents of several parishioners and to reflect language we use in everyday life.  Formation activities moved outside our walls, to an arts café and a bar/restaurant; we have embraced learning as a key element of who we are.  Additionally, we began teaming up with local organizations to sponsor events that outsiders may not think churches sponsor, chief among them Blues and Brews with the arts group, but also concerts and our animal blessing.

Great as all that may be for our life together, it is not about us.  It is all aimed at reentering the conversation happening in our town, a conversation about economics and politics, loss and hope, drugs and alcohol, football and wrestling, bike trails and beer, questions and longings and spirituality.  Is this new or different?  No, it is not.  But it is a new orientation for us, one that is exciting and challenging.  Much of it is about listening to people, putting ourselves in different places so we hear many stories and better understand what God is doing here so we can partner with God in that work.  That’s why I torture myself with the pigeon pose: to meet new people, learn about their lives, and listen to their spirituality.  And that is happening, slowly.  Investing in a community and others takes time, more time than I would like.  But hopefully I’ll learn a little patience through the yoga and learn to listen more deeply to the people I meet and to God.  And together with the others at Holy Trinity, we can be part of the conversation happening in our community.

The Rev. Melinda Hall is vicar of Holy Trinity, Brookville. 

‘Planting’ Hope for the Future at Buhl Day

Buhl Day (the annual Labor Day celebration held in Hermitage, PA) was a success for the diocese’s newest church plant in more ways than one.  The church’s food stand, besides being a great fundraising opportunity, brought together people from eight different congregations all over the diocese to work and reach out to the community and each other. Good food, good fun, and building relationships while helping to further the Kingdom of God – the definition of One Church at work. It was definitely a Great Day in the Kingdom!

Read on for some personal reflections on the day:

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“In the beginning of Buhl Day there is a parade that local residents are excited to attend; giving us time to prepare before the rush.  I had helped prepare for this in the two days prior, but I was getting pumped on what was to come. Eventually, after getting everything ready and seeing more people arrive to help, we got customers. The crowd did not seem as big as usual, but we had a steady amount of people buying things. It was time to roll and perform my duties, alongside others who were working diligently.

There was a fantastic amount of people there helping, so I found I could sit and actually take a break – something that I and  others that had worked at this booth on Buhl Day in the past had not experienced too often. Finally after smelling the sandwiches being prepared all morning, I enjoyed one myself.

photo-sep-05-10-47-30-amAt one point I was standing outside the booth to help direct people, and I looked at all the people inside the booth.  Seven churches and the new Episcopal church plant all gathered together for this one goal.  Everyone was at a station talking amongst themselves.  There were so many there, you could find someone to talk to.  It was good to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while, and meet new ones throughout the NWPA diocese, including Canon Martha and Bishop Sean.  The feeling of “one church” was clearly evident.

As the day was winding down, we counted down things that were close to being sold out.  After the last kielbasa was sold, we shouted a loud “Amen” that caughtphoto-sep-05-10-14-43-am the attention of those nearby. Seeing the Bishop work in the different sections was such a pleasure, especially when he was a cashier talking to the customers.  We talked, laughed and maybe even sang and danced with others there feeling the energy flowing throughout the place.  To the bittersweet end where we tore down everything, I couldn’t have imagined things going too much better. I left feeling proud of all the accomplishments this day had made, and was glad that I was involved and witnessed something that wondrous.

In the amazement of how everything went, I think, as a new Episcopal church we are ready to tackle anything that comes our way. The support and thankfulness we felt with all the other people of the churches in the diocese is overwhelming. Together, I believe, that since we got through this, then we can get through many things our church will face. I, as well as others, are very hopeful for the future. ”  Laura Betz, Hermitage Church Plant


Pastor Jason Shank, Hermitage Church Plant

Roots and Renovation – Growing a Movement

God has great plans for a specific hill in Millcreek Township – that hill is the land upon which St. Mark’s is situated.  Many of you are aware of the exciting things happening at St. Mark’s.  Over the past five years, St. Mark’s has grown from an average Sunday attendance of around 50 to 150!  The faithful people of St. Mark’s have taken to heart the calling of the resurrected Christ in the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  They have developed a regular practice of inviting friends, family, and co-workers to church.  And they are committed to continually fostering a deeper sense of community, connectivity, and formation through small groups, house groups, Bible studies, outreach ministries, alternative worship experiences, and much more.

Beyond being committed to programmatic and experiential opportunities, the people of St. Mark’s also realize that it’s time to make the physical Parish Hallbuilding of St. Mark’s reflect the Spirit and needs of a growing community.  The current parish hall and church have been basically untouched since their completion in 1961 and 1965.  And let’s face it; brown asbestos tile, cinderblock walls, military green bathrooms, broken windows, no gathering area, and a lack of air conditioning don’t tell a newcomer that a church is alive and growing in Christ in the year 2016.  Even more importantly, the congregation has exceeded the capacity of the current parish hall and is aware of the need to create space for the next 100+ worshippers yet to join to St. Mark’s.

This realization was the birth of our capital campaign and building project.  The congregation fully met their campaign goal of $600,000 and with financial assistance from Diocesan Council, St. Mark’s is Bathroomscurrently in the process of preparing the hill for a 1700 sq. ft. addition to our parish hall and kitchen to include proper storage, kitchen equipment, carpeting, lighting, drywall, and new windows.
A gathering area will also be added to the front of the church to create a space for people to mingle and live further into our practice of welcome and hospitality.  Enlarged and fully renovated restrooms are also part of the plan.  And all of the above mentioned areas will have commercial HVAC!

The church space itself is also being enhanced with new LED lighting (as most of the peak lighting has been burned out since the late 1980s).  And the balcony will be renovated to serve as overflow seating for larger attended liturgies.  As with any building project, there will be things done to the property that won’t been seen, but are necessary to the current and future development of the hill.  We are upgrading the electrical service, installing new electrical panels, abating all asbestos, and creating a land development and stormwater management plan for the long-term growth and development of the hill.

Even though demolition has only been happening for a few weeks, there have been some fun discoveries along the way.  There is a 12-foot stained glass window from the original St. Mark’s building (formerly located at 10th and French Streets) in the corner Trinitarian Stained Glassof the boiler room featuring some wonderful Trinitarian and Eucharistic themes waiting to be resurrected and put into ministry again.  Also, the bell tower came down for restoration allowing us the chance to read the bell.  The bell was made by the Aspinwall Bell Company in 1831 – it’s amazing to think that our bell has been calling Christians to worship for 185 years!  So while St. Mark’s appears to be on the surface a simple 1960s A-frame church, we are discovering our roots and praying that from those roots grow a great movement in the name of Jesus Christ unlike anything ever seen before in our region.  Stop up sometime; I’d love to show you around!

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Craig Dressler – Associate for Parish Life at St. Mark’s, Erie

Wrap-Up Post from the DR Mission Team

‘I would like to see Senor Hidalgo.’ This is how my morning begins on Saturday: with an inquiry to see the customs official at the Santiago airport. I’m shown into a small office with dingy lights, one high-heeled shoe lying ominously next to the metal-framed desk. A previous misadventure with customs? I briefly contemplate what my Brooks sneaker would look like next to it, before snapping out of it. I’m never very rational or clear-headed at 3:30am.

Hidalgo appears, in his official uniform, with a ring of keys. ‘You’re here too early.’ He says, looking only briefly at the carbon form in my hands, while unlocking a door to a larger room where I glimpse the two bags that are my reason for being here. With the dim lights and the carbon paper and the suspense, I really feel like I’m in a film noir set in 1940. ‘Too early?’ I reply back, really not liking where this seems to be leading. I want the two bags of our 640 pairs of glasses to take back to America, and I want them now, not later. Who knows what the line is like at immigration? ‘You must wait,’ he says. That’s when I wish it were a movie, because then I’d be some super cool CIA person with karate skills and the ability to teach Hidalgo a real lesson. Instead, I’m a puny priest with no real arm muscles and only a passing knowledge of Spanish.

‘No. No. I’m not waiting. We are not too early; your airport website says arrive 3 hours early. I am taking the glasses. I am going to Delta. You can come with me, but I am going. Now. Right now.’ At least that is what I think I said- this is all happening in Spanish- in my most defiant tone with blazing eyes. A long pause, hands on my hips; heart beats shallow, anger pulsing behind my eyes as I try to think of my next move, but I can’t because it is 3:30am, and I’ve not had any coffee.

Then he looks at the man with him, in a regular button-down shirt, round faced and younger. A decision is made as they point me to the door and grab the cart with the glasses. I become the ringleader of a parade through the outdoor airport, complete with a giant cart holding the big black bags and two customs officials. They escort me to the Delta check-in and wait with me until I check the glasses, procuring copies of my tickets and baggage tags before giving me a stack of stapled papers they assure me I’ll need in the US, which I put away because no one in the US cares about 640 pairs of glasses, all looking like they came from 1982. Only Hidalgo cared.

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And that is probably the only ‘rational’ explanation for why our vision clinic never happened this past week. Let me be clear: no one we worked with anticipated any trouble. The company from whom we rented the equipment and bought the glasses sends teams all over the world- often to the DR- with little trouble; the American missionary in the DR, who plans our trip, works with teams that do vision clinics and has never encountered an issue. The priest at Christo Salvador also did not anticipate this problem. Over the course of the week, Father Hipolito made repeated phone calls and visits to the airport; the diocese involved their government liaison. Despite having the paperwork all finished on Wednesday, customs refused to give the glasses back. I feel quite relieved even to have received them back to take home.

The losers in this are the people of the barrio where we work. They were signed up for appointments. The last day, a little girl asked Tina about glasses; it was the worst feeling in the world to say ‘no, no glasses.’ I have sent scans of the paperwork I received back to the missionary in the DR to try and get an answer, but I remain unsure whether we will have an answer. By no means was the week a waste of time, but this was undeniably disappointing. We will do our best to figure out what went wrong and make an informed decision about next year.

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In wrapping up this blog, I would like to extend an enormous ‘thank you’ to those who kept us in your prayers and to the churches and individuals who supported us financially. Without the assistance and commitment of our sponsors, we could not have gone. The team is grateful for their support of this ‘one church’ endeavor that grows the kingdom and changes lives.

– Melinda Hall

Post from Friday of DR Mission Trip

The dreaded time has come to say our goodbyes. We were only here for a short period of time,  and made such a huge impact on the kids’ lives. Just by being here for a little while the kids even made an impact on me. Despite what happens in the children’s lives, they came to Vacation Bible School and forgot whatever was the matter at home, and had a huge smile on their face. They also loved playing with my hair every day! I cannot wait to come next year and see the kids again. I am going to miss them so much. They were so cheerful to see us come and happy we were having fun too. By the end of the week we had 73 kids. This is a lot for the community the church is located in. The first day we had about 45 children show up.  They loved the games and crafts we had for them. For this being my first time being out of the country and first mission trip, I was scared of the different culture and food.  Once we got here Friday, I noticed a lot of things were the same and not a lot different from home. The food was different but I tried a lot of news things, including rice, fried eggplant, and papaya.

-Abby Wheeler

Post from Thursday of DR Mission Trip

Seeing the children waiting each morning, makes us smile. We are greeted with hugs and smiles. They are excited to learn new games and teach us their games. They are so happy to see ping pong balls and balloons and game time goes so quickly.

During craft time today, the teachers read ‘The Giving Tree’. The children then traced their hand to create a tree that they decorated with stickers to make ‘leaves’ of thanks. As we helped them trace their hands we noticed how they were sharing crayons and helping each other draw leaves.

This week is going very quick. Even though it’s not going the exact way we planned, each day we are reminded of how this partnership in the DR is truly as blessing for all of our church family.

– Julie Westman – Church of Our Savior, DuBois