From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopal Urban Caucus 20th anniversary
18 Apr 2000 15:38:55
Urban Caucus marks 20th anniversary with a challenge to see with
by Susan Barksdale
(ENS) How do we recognize the strangers among us? And how
do we minister to them? These were some of the questions posed
to the more than 150 people who gathered in downtown
Minneapolis March 1-4 for "Stranger in a Strange Land?" the
20th annual assembly of the Episcopal Urban Caucus.
They visited local ministries, discussed strategies for next
summer's General Convention, and heard words of empowerment
to send them out to do their work.
In his opening address, Bishop Mark MacDonald of Alask
a used Gospel examples to remind participants that those who
are often most ready to hear the Gospel are not always those who
are closest to Jesus. He urged participants to develop "Gospel
eyes" to enable them to see the Christ in every person.
He drew many examples from his work in Native-American
communities. Traditional people, he said, don't go anywhere unless
they have to. They don't travel for pleasure or for sight
seeing. They know that they will get into trouble. Listeners to
Jesus were alarmed at his directive in Luke 10 to "go to Jericho,"
at least until they heard him say, "but take someone with you."
In this directive, Jesus began a new ministry--one that replaced
the temple with the home and everyday life, said MacDonald.
"God is near here," MacDonald said. "Turn around and
recognize the Good News instead of saying, 'I'll tell you the Good
News when you cut your hair or give up your drum or stop
speaking your language'."
"Who is the stranger in a strange land?" asked the Very
Rev. Joel Gibson, Dean of St. Mark's Cathedral, at a special
Eucharist. He recounted the stories of the first residents of
America, who welcomed the "strangers" from the European
continent but soon themselves became unwelcome strangers.
"The sojourn of the blacks in America," Gibson added, "was
not a freely made choice, and the reception was as costly for
them as it was for the Indian." But time and tide eventually
change all landscapes, he said, and today "there is hardly a
metropolitan area that is not experiencing some form of an
enhanced migration experience."
Site visits and an off-site lunch introduced participants to
various ministries that welcome and include many strangers
and help transform them into family. The Abraham Lincoln High
School, an alternative city school run under the auspices of an
Episcopal agency, the Institute of Education and Advocacy,
provides an English immersion program and a high school
education for young refugees from around the world, many of whom
have lived in camps for most of their lives. And they also
toured the Upper Midwest Indian Center, a gathering place for
At a lunch at the Church of Gethsemane in downtown
Minneapolis, rector Sandra Wilson told of how that parish had
"reinvented itself" to reflect its changing inner-city neighborhood,
setting up programs that minister to, among others, the residents
of a next-door hotel that is now the Upper Midwest's
largest transitional housing shelter.
Wilson cited one small example of the church's work:
Couples at the center must be married in order to qualify for place
ment in housing but they must surrender their money when they
enter the shelter. "So we've been quietly been buying marriage
licenses," she said, "and holding little weddings here at
Resolutions call for equity
As expected in this General Convention year, much of the
assembly's business concerned resolutions urging action by the
greater church. Of particular note was a resolution asking the
national church to initiate a study on equity issues concerning
clergy locally ordained under the church's Canon 9. The resolution's
explanation said that such clergy are "primarily people of color or
from poor rural parishes" and added that current policy of not paying
salaries to Canon 9 priests "sends a very clear message to communities
of color about the lack of importance of ministry to their communities."
"Open your minds and hearts, not your Bibles," said Bishop
Steven Charleston, dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, to the
assembly. "You and I are seated in the Upper Room. There was
something about the message [of Jesus] that caught you where you
needed to be caught. . . .. When did that moment come to you?"
We have been at this for a long time, Charleston told the
assembly, but none of all our wonderful agendas and hopes for
the future can move forward unless we have the spirit to make
them so--to move out of the Upper Room and into the world
beyond. He challenged the caucus, "Do we have that Spirit of
Christ within us or not?"
--Susan Barksdale is editor of Soundings, the newspaper of the
Diocese of Minnesota.
For more information contact:
Episcopal News Service
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