Anglican Church Offers Prayers for Those Affected by CO Fires

On June 29, news reports out of Colorado Springs, Colo., noted that the raging wildfire has “forced tens of thousands to flee, has left at least one person dead and destroyed an estimated 346 homes this week, making it the most destructive fire in the state’s history.”

During this time, the Anglican Church in North America is urging all its members to be in prayer for those affected by this fire and the others in the state.

The three congregations in Colorado Springs associated with the Anglican Church in North America, St. George’s Anglican Church (CANA), International Anglican Church (PEARUSA), and Holy Trinity Anglican Church (PEARUSA) are in communication with one another and are actively at work, ministering and serving. Please pray for each of the church families as many have been displaced and others have lost their homes to the fire. The churches are beginning to assess the pastoral needs not only for their parishioners, but also for the community and are preparing for the range of loss and trauma that will result from the destruction.

Please join us in praying this prayer, adapted from the Book of Common Prayer - Prayers for the World: For All Sorts and Conditions of Men:
O God, the Creator and Preserver of all mankind, we humbly beseech thee for all sorts and conditions of men; that thou wouldest be pleased to make thy ways known unto them, thy saving health unto all nations. More especially, we pray for thy holy Church universal; that it may be so guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who profess and call themselves Christians may be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Finally, we commend to thy fatherly goodness all those who are in any ways afflicted or distressed, in mind, body, or estate; especially for those who are suffering from the wildfires in Colorado. We pray for protection of the land, for those who are fleeing their homes, wisdom and strength for firefighters and police, and generosity from your Holy Church to care for those in need; that it may please thee to comfort and relieve them according to their several necessities, giving them patience under their sufferings, and a happy issue out of all their afflictions. And this we beg for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Home page photo caption: This aerial photo taken on Wednesday, June 27, 2012, shows burned homes in the Mountain Shadows residential area of Colorado Springs, Colo., that were destroyed by the Waldo Canyon wildfire. (AP Photo/John Wark)

Story photo caption: One of the hundreds of totally destroyed homes in the Waldo Canyon fire is seen from the air in Colorado Springs, Colorado June 28, 2012. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

A Look Inside: The Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin

As part of the Anglican Church in North America’s “A Look Inside” Diocesan news series, we are taking a look at St. John’s Church, Stockton, Calif.,  – the third oldest Episcopal church on the West Coast and a member congregation of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. Learn how this 19th century church has grown steadily for over 150 years by its commitment to spreading the Gospel and ministering to its downtown community.

Located in the heart of downtown Stockton, Calif., The Church of Saint John the Evangelist is lighting up the community through prayer and good deeds. Although the building was erected in 1858, St. John’s is relevant and constantly evolving to fit the needs of the city. Father Lee Nelson began shepherding Saint John’s congregation three and a half years ago and has witnessed several positive changes both within the congregation and the community. A young rector, Father Nelson believes in developing personal relationships with the residents of Stockton and neighboring cities and ensuring the church is a haven for those in need.

In the aftermath of the 2007 economic crash, the city of Stockton took a huge blow and many families and businesses were forced into foreclosure. With this tragedy came an opportunity for Saint John’s to spread Christ’s love by interacting one-on-one with those in need through outreach programs. For example, every week, members of the congregation volunteer at a food pantry, and once a month food is delivered to the doorsteps of families who can’t physically or financially buy meals. The church also opens its doors to public servants, such as police officers, offering them a cup of coffee and space in the conference room to write their reports. Father Nelson and others even devote time at least one morning a week to pray in front of the local abortion clinic for women, their unborn children and the practitioners.

“Even though St. John’s is one of the nine parishes facing a lawsuit right now, we would gladly walk away if we lost in court,” said Father Nelson. “While the building is beautiful and has meant a great deal to the congregation for over 150 years, our mission is to actively interact with the community.”

A multi-generational and multi-cultural church, Saint John’s believes it is important to disciple people of all ages and races alongside one another. Because of this, the Church has developed a catechesis teaching ministry that allows adolescents ages 12-18 to learn the same doctrines and teachings alongside those in their 40s, 50s, 60s and older. At the end of the year-long program, participants are confirmed into the church and baptized before the congregation. From there, the new members can join a small group, such as a book study, to further develop personal relationships with fellow believers and remain accountable to their new-found faith.

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Saint John’s also holds firm to the notion that parents are the spiritual leaders for their children, which is why the catechesis ministry offers training for moms and dads whose kids want to be confirmed and baptized. “We really believe parents are the primary educators of their children,” said Father Nelson. “We want to focus on educating families as a whole so they can fully live out their calling. Because of this approach, we have had parents get baptized as a result of going through the process with their children.”

The history of the building and the church’s previous leaders have all shaped St. John’s into what it is today. A traditional parish, St. John’s still uses the same pipe organ that was built in Boston in 1857 and shipped “around the horn,” through the Golden Gate, and in to Stockton’s inland port, just a couple of blocks south of the church. With 15 priests serving as rector during its first 50 years, one of the interim rectors during the 1870s was The Rev. Dr. James Lloyd Breck, one of the great missionaries of the Episcopal Church, and co-founder of two of our seminaries: Nashotah House and Seabury-Western. The lay leaders of St. John’s have also been prominent community leaders.

While the congregation is immensely blessed by its physical space and downtown location for outreach, members of St. John’s have their eyes on the future and how God is calling them to serve in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Photo caption: Father Lee Nelson (far left) pictured with members of St. John’s multi-generational catechesis class in Granbury, TX, having just completed their time at the Saint Michael’s Conference.

Perspective: Transforming Communities through Disaster Response and Relief

By Bruce Colville

I left the Anglican Church in North America Assembly personally challenged and spiritually directed by the teaching, worship and speakers. I was strengthened by the fellowship and the different opportunities to meet and talk with so many friends, old and new. I believe they support a mission focus on disaster relief and the work I have been called to do. I was helped by their interaction and support.

On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to lead one of the workshops in the “transforming communities” track. It was called “Your Local Church: The Transforming Community in Disaster Response and Relief.”

I believe my mission is to prepare and preserve the local church to be an intact ministering community (regardless of the weather). If there was any doubt that the local church and its individual members are called to be the ministering, missional agents of the Gospel in our world - beginning with our neighbors just beyond our front doorsteps - that question was long gone by Friday afternoon. Half of my presentation and discussion had already been thoroughly covered in the succession of powerful messages from Bishops Ponniah, Hunter and Dr. Stetzer. Instead, I skipped forward to the heart of the matter: disaster response and relief.

In order for the local church to be prepared and preserved to minister we need to be in contact, in communication and committed to serve. To be a local church we must be in contact with our neighbors, our towns and cities. This also means that we need to be contactable and we discussed many practical approaches to both sides of this word “contact.”

Communication also works in two complementary ways. Two things happen immediately in any disaster or tragedy: chaos and a loss of communication. Our ability to be a ministering community hinges on our ability to be in communication.

It is a given that the head (leadership) is responsible to communicate with the members of the body. It is equally important that the members of the body understand their responsibility to communicate with the head. The church that is practiced at communicating and working together will instinctually come together to minister and serve when chaos and confusion set in. Finally, the local church is committed to preserving its resources and property to serve the needs of our neighbors for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom.

This final step involves prudent steps in planning, from protecting valuable information and resources to emergency evacuation if necessary. Within every congregation are groups of skilled and talented people who may want to serve in specific ways: emergency medicine, building construction, social care and outreach. We have a great opportunity to mobilize these local groups, build partnerships and share resources with other churches. We can and should be ministering to communities wherever there is need, in times of crisis or simply in our local neighborhood.

The schedule and organization of Provincial Assembly worked very well for introductions, networking, impromptu meetings and discussions. It was clear from the feedback at my workshop and talking with bishops, priests, men and women from all over the country that we Anglicans are excited about our call as a missional church planting movement and to reach North America with a Gospel that both proclaims and demonstrates the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

About Bruce Colville
After a 20 year career in New York theatre, Colville became involved in overseas missionary work within the Anglican Communion. In 2004 and 2005, he made two trips to work in Central Africa. Since then, Colville has assisted with numerous disaster response and relief efforts including the Haiti earthquake, North Alabama tornadoes, Nashville flooding and hurricanes Katrina, Gustav, Ike and Irene. Colville lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife, Cindy. Click to contact him. 

Photo caption: Colville leads a “transforming communities” workshop at Provincial Assembly 2012.