Gay Straight Episcopalians, Having the Conversation in Madison Wisconsin

The Episcopal Church will hold its triennial General Convention in Indianapolis this July.   One of the resolutions before convention will request a three year trial period for the use of blessings for same sex unions.  Issues of human sexuality and the church’s response to our LGBT members will be in the news this summer.  Gay Straight Episcopalians, a group made up of clergy and laity from all four Madison Episcopal churches, would like to offer you an opportunity to prepare for the conversations and questions that are bound to happen “around the water cooler” when your co workers and friends find out you are an Episcopalian.

Join us on Sunday February 12th at St Dunstan’s or on Wednesday February 15th at St Luke’s for a showing of the award winning documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So.”   Both showings are at 7:00.  No RSVP is necessary.

From Amazon’s Product Description:

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Dan Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible. As the film notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp.

Through the experience of five very normal, very Christian, very American families – including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson – we discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. With commentary by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard’s Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, For The Bible Tells Me So offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

A Whole Season’s Worth of Epiphany in One Week!

It was an amazing week in the season of Epiphany as God was made manifest (from the Greek epiphainein to manifest) here in Madison through the witness, love and work of the Episcopal Church!

Pere Wisnel Dejardin, our friend and partner in ministry from Jeannette Haiti arrived on Saturday night, January 7th.   In the week that he was here in Wisconsin he Celebrated the Eucharist three times, preached on a Wednesday night, met with representatives, both clergy and lay, from all over the diocese, and spent time with Bishop Steven Miller and Canon David Pfaff, and the Steering Committee of the Diocese of Milwaukee Haiti Project.

In the short time that he was here, describing the hardships in Jeannette caused by the two month early onset of the dry season and the loss of a feeding program that was previously underwritten by another NGO, we raised almost $5,000.  That $5,000 will feed the students of Saint Marc’s School for 6 weeks!  Those six weeks will give us time to raise additional monies to continue the school lunch program and wire the finds to Haiti.

The Diocese of Milwaukee Haiti Project has emergency reserve funds and at a meeting with Pere Wisnel at Grace Episcopal Church on Friday evening we committed some of those funds to buy a tanker truck of water to be delivered to Jeannette.  That water will fill their cisterns and provide safe, clean drinking water in a place where the land is parched and dry!

Pere Wisnel left for Haiti in the early morning hours of January 14th with a sense of joy and hope for the people of Jeannette, uplifted by the support and love poured out on him and his parish by the people of the Diocese of Milwaukee.

As this week was wrapping up we read in the news about a fire at the Porchlight Transitional Housing Apartments.  On Friday night, a bitterly cold night when the fire trucks froze on the street, all 100 residents of the apartment building at the corner of Brooks and Johnson Streets had to be evacuated.  On Saturday afternoon the fire department cleared the building so that all but 16 of those residents could return to their apartments.

As I was reading the article describing the plight of those 16 women I received a call from LZ Ventures, our partners in developing the Saint Francis House Episcopal Student Ministry site.  LZ offered to delay the construction process at the Saint Francis House site so that the vacated building could be used as temporary Emergency Housing for our next door neighbors at Porchlight!  Within the hour the Saint Francis House Board, the Bishop of the Diocese of Milwaukee and the staff at Porchlight were in conversation, making plans to move the sixteen displaced residents of Porchlight into Saint Francis House.

Madison Property Management, managers of the Grand Central Student Apartments, also neighbors “on the block” brought furniture to Saint Francis House, had their staff re key the doors so that the women who would be using the space would feel secure in their temporary lodgings, installed smoke detectors and repaired lighted exit signs bringing the space back up to code.  All of this done so that 16 people would be safe and warm for a month!

In the days since the fire I have heard from parishioners whose work places are sponsoring bake sales to raise funds to help the residents of Porchlight replace the belongings that were lost in the fire.  I have heard from parishioners who are donating clothing, toiletries, furniture, and cash.  Mike Lisle, a member of our Vestry, contacted me and his company KleenMark has donated cleaning supplies so that the rooms at Porchlight, even the rooms that were deemed habitable after the fire, can be cleaned of the soot, ash and smell of smoke that permeated the entire building!

In the season of Epiphany we look for signs of God’s presence and activity in the world around us.  We look for moments where God’s love and grace are made manifest, tangible, real.  In this one week we have seen God at work in the world through the ministry and care of the Episcopal Church, through the work of the communities that we have gathered, and through the outpouring of support for people in need that so characterizes who we are.  We are the Church, the Body of Christ, God’s hands and feet in the world.  Thanks be to God!

Helping the Displaced Porchlight Residents

Here is the website for Porchlight which lists things that are needed by the poeple who lost their homes in Friday’s fire:

If you would like to make a financial contribution to help these 16 women get back on their feet you can do so by by clicking here.

The web donation form allows you to designate how you want the funds to be used.

The Church at its Best!

After a three year discernment process and a long and contentious approval process the Saint Francis House Episcopal Student Ministry property is scheduled for redevelopment, deconstruction of part of the existing building and construction of a new Student Apartment building that will provide an income stream to sustain and enliven the campus ministry.  On Friday night at fire broke out at the Porchlight Transitional Housing Apartments on Brooks Street.  This apartment building is adjacent to the Saint Francis House property.  The next day, Saturday, I was able to send this letter to the Madison Common Council:

My name is Andy Jones.  I am the Rector of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church and a member of the Saint Francis House Board.  I have a wonderful story to tell you.

This morning, while I was reading about the fire at Porchlight, I received a call from Steve Silverburg, a partner with LZ Ventures.  We have already turned the property at 1001 University Avenue over to LZ so that they can begin the development process.  Steve had seen the articles about the fire and spoken with his partners.  He was calling to say that they were willing to return the building to us and to delay the beginning of the construction process to allow the displaced residents of the Porchlight Facility temporary emergency shelter at Saint Francis House for up to one month.

the Saint Francis House Board, and the Bishop of the Diocese of Milwaukee immediately approved these arrangements and The Rev. Dr. Jonathan Grieser, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, contacted the staff at Porchlight.

Porchlight has been able to relocate six of their displaced residents in other faciliites.  The remaining ten residents will stay with the Red Cross tonight and then take temporary shelter at Saint Francis House tomorrow.

Steve Silverburg called again this afternoon and Jim Stoppel, owner of Madison Property Management and manager of Grand Central Student Apartments, has offered to lend us furniture and supplies to make the Porchlight residents comfortable while they are being housed at Saint Francis House.

When we came before you asking for approval for our development project we said that we were committed to being good neighbors on the block.  This story demonstrates the depth and quality of that commitment.

I know that the approval process for the Saint Francis House development was a difficult decision.  I hope that this story helps to illustrate the fact that, in the end, we are all working together to develop and nurture a strong and vibrant community where people can come together and work for the common good.