Catching Up

I am back riding on the train to New York City, on vacation as of 10:30 AM, heading to the annual Episcopal Business Administrators Conference (EBAC). This is an event that I have attended for each of the 15+ years that I have worked for the Diocese, except for 2008 when that honor went to my associate.

For me being on the train is very relaxing and allows the opportunity for random thoughts to come to the surface. There have been numerous times over the past several weeks that I jotted down thoughts or inspirations that should have moved me toward typing. However, they did not. My beloved Yankees are moving toward playing in the World Series and I am preoccupied. And, I am at the beginning of several new projects.

But first a couple of my in-frequent thoughts.

Fall or Autumn is fast approaching in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Several times in the early evening, the sun setting earlier and earlier, I have caught a whiff of a smoke from a home fireplace. A smell that transports me to sweaters and socks, flannel sheets and cats sleeping around my legs. Other times, I in looking up the blue sky and white clouds are the perfect example of the opening clips of The Simpson's blue sky.

These days my spare day light hours are filled with closing up the pool, pulling up summer annuals, re-ordering the flower beds and cutting the grass for one of the last times. This weekend, I will decorate the inside and outside of the house for fall and Halloween, one of my favorite non-holidays.

This past week, I began a 34 week Disciple Bible Study course. Including myself, there are 14 in the group. I am the facilitator and not teacher. The participants are eager and excited, lots of energy. The differences in the group should add to its dynamics: Southern Baptists, Episcopalians, Quakers, young and not so young, men, women.

While typing, I am hearing the recitation of scripture as two men, Jews, are studying as they head to a funeral in Queens. I took the liberty of asking if the yarmulke they wore was to remind them of God, and the answer is to remind them that there is something above or higher than they. They are receiving phone calls and speak a mixture of Yiddish and English. Wonderful for the ears. Seeing how the younger man reveres the older, I think he must be a rabbi. He is reading and teaching.

Believe it or not they asked abo ut the trials within the Episcopal Church.

Arriving at Penn Station, I wait in the taxi line, oblivious to time. God will get me where I need to be in time. My driver is offered a $20 to get me to The Roosevelt and the conference by 1:15. He is Haitian and as is my usual custom we discuss when he came to the states, etc. He arrived in 1984, attended Brooklyn College graduating with a degree in Biology. He has been driving a cab since 1990. He is an expert on the Haitian history as it relates to the US. On his days off he goes to museums and soaks up everything. Oh to continue this conversation. But off I go.

I arrive in the room at 1:22. David is not far along. Video has been watched. Success and off to get a room, register and head to workshops.

I Love this City.


I Am a Christian

At the annual Episcopal Church Women's Prayer Breakfast at Sts. Andrew and Matthew this past Saturday, September 19, this was one of the readings. Enjoy.

I Am a Christian

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean Livin"
I'm whispering "I was lost, now I'm forgiven"

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride
I'm confessing that I stumble
And need CHRIST to be my guide.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong
I'm professing that I was weak and
Need HIS strength to carry on.

When I Say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not braggin of success
I'm admitting I have failed and
Need GOD to clean up my mess '

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect, My flaws are far too
Visible but. GOD believes I'm worth it'

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain;
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon HIS name.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou
I'm just a simPle sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow'

-MaYa Angelou


Mere Lauren in Haiti

I am going to add the writings of my friend, the Rev. Lauren Stanley. I first met Lauren in Sudan, Khartoum to be exact. She and I spent an evening together before I was heading home and she was heading back to Renk Theological College. Lauren is now a missioner in Haiti and I will be bringing you her adventures through her own words. Lauren writes for Episcopal Cafe which can be found at www.episcopalcafe.com

Plus ca change

By Lauren R. Stanley

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti – I’ve been in Haiti for just a few days now, and already, I am being bombarded with questions: How is it? Is it really different from Sudan?

After serving as a missionary for four years to the Episcopal Diocese of Renk in the northernmost part of South Sudan, I now am discovering the joys – and differences – of living and moving and having my being in the West Indies. Every day, I see something that reminds me of Sudan; every day, I encounter the differences as well. Intellectually, I know I am in a new and different place. Emotionally, I am learning to adjust. Spiritually, I never moved.

The main differences begin with the languages , of course. Here, the people speak French and Creole, instead of Arabic and Dinka and Nuer and Murle and all those other tribal languages spoken in Renk. Here, no one says Salaam aleikum. Instead, we greet each other with Bonjou or Bonswa. And the manner in which we greet each other differs greatly, too: In Sudan, we shake hands – endlessly, it sometimes seems. In Haiti, we hug and kiss on the cheek – something unheard of in my previous posting.

But even more startling than the languages, which I am learning slowly (Creole) or recovering after 30 years (French), with 10 other languages in between, is the freedom, the absolute freedom that you find in Haiti. This nation is very Caribbean in its flavor; the mode of dress alone is enough to startle the eye. But there’s freedom here that is not experienced in Sudan: Freedom to do, freedom to be, freedom to believe. In the portion of Sudan where I lived, there were few overt signs of Christianity. Yes, you could see churches and crosses atop mud huts and some signs, but that was it. Sudan is a land where religion still very much divides the people.

But in Haiti? God is everywhere, openly proclaimed. Churches proliferate. Churches bells ring. Christianity is the main religion, and no one hesitates to proclaim it, no one hides it. Even the tap-taps, the pickup trucks converted into public transportation, are covered in calls to God: Grace be with us; Immanuel; Son of God; Holy Trinity; Saint (fill in the blank with whatever name you wish). Even one of the lotteries played in this country invokes God’s presence and blessing.

And as startling for me is the freedom of the women. They can dress however they like, go wherever they like and seemingly do whatever they like. This is a nation with a female prime minister, Michele Pierre-Louis. At the hardware store yesterday, searching for plumbing parts to fix a recalcitrant shower, the person with whom I consulted, the manager, who knew more than anyone else in the store about plumbing and what I needed, was a woman! This simply is not the case in Sudan, and even though I am an American, I’ve lived overseas for a long time and am very adapted to the subservient role women take in many places. To be in Haiti, to see such leadership and freedom enjoyed by women, is both thrilling and a bit unsettling; it is something to which I will have to become – joyfully – adjusted.

But setting aside those major differences (there are others – various customs and foods come to mind), there are even greater similarities. The people are, for the most part, dirt poor here. But they try – they scramble every day – to get through the day. They work however they can; they take their children to school; they gather to talk and debate. I’m not foolish enough to say the people are happy; I am discerning enough to see the small joys they find in life and to hear their laughter. I see an intense devotion to and trust in God; an intense desire to not only survive for another day but to get ahead, even just a little bit; an incredible hunger for education.

Yes, I have moved thousands of miles, from the largest nation in Africa to one of the smallest in the world. I’m changing cultures and languages and even foods. But I am still living in the fields of the Lord, still serving God’s beloved children, still astounded at God’s grace and how it is received and displayed. Much has changed, but through the love of God, even more has joyfully remained the same.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an appointed missionary of The Episcopal Church, serving in the Diocese of Haiti in the West Indies. She began her new ministry there last week..


Saints of God

When I left Sudan last summer, Robin Denny began her ministry as the next Missioner to Sudan working as an Agricultural Consultant to the Province.

Here is her latest musings.

Dear Friends,

"I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and

died for the Lord they loved and knew."

In mission work, in life in general I suppose, there is always juxtaposition of states of being:

joy and sorrow, hope and despair, love and fear, beauty and horror. They exist side by side,

often in the same situations. The tension then is trying to hold these separate experiences of the

world at the same time, and recognizing the presence of God there in the midst of it.

In the last few weeks, the Episcopal Church of Sudan has suffered two terrible attacks. One in the diocese of Ezo

(on the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic), and one in the diocese of

Twic East (northern Jonglei state). In Ezo, there has been a renewed ferocity of attacks by the LRA

(rebels/terrorists of northern Uganda) in the last few weeks. People have fled to the town center of

Ezo for protection, but even there the LRA attacked. The bishop, the diocesan staff and 12 of their parishes

are currently displaced. On August 12-13 there was an attack on Ezo town by the LRA. The ECS church was

attacked, a lay reader was killed, and 8 Sunday school children were abducted by the LRA. The LRA are known

for forcing children to become soldiers, and the torture of those they kill or abduct.

In Twic East diocese there was an attack by approximately a thousand heavily armed militia on the

village of Wernyol and the surrounding area, on August 29. More than 40 people were killed in the area,

and the ECS Archdeacon Joseph Mabior Garang, was among the dead. He was killed in the church in

Wernyol while leading morning prayer.

More than two thousand have died in south Sudan in increasing internal conflict since April. See

Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul´s appeal regarding these recent events: http://sudan.anglican.org/jongleiappeal.php

I received the news of these two attacks after returning from a wonderful trip to two dioceses on the border with

northern Sudan last Saturday. The news, devastating in itself, also adds to the growing despair people here feel

about the instability of the peace. Where is God in all this? How can we reconcile these events with the image

of our loving God? And why is it that I back to this question after asking it so many times in the past?

In the last 25 years, more than two and a half million people died in the war in south Sudan. The Church in Sudan

is not a stranger to suffering and death, imprisonment and martyrdom. And yet many of the bishops and leaders

in the church who I know are people full of a deep and contagious joy. Despite the existence of such horror and

despair in the past and present, joy, peace, love, and hope are very much alive in the hearts of these men and

women. I am learning from them that a heart full of this mysterious joy, is something that cannot be taught, but

must be gained through prayer and experience. In the journey of our lives, each discovery redemption, each

experience of the presence of hope in the face of despair, love in the face of fear, joy in the face of pain,

teaches us about God. Here God is, in the joy and hope of those wise souls who have gone and continue to

go before us, walking with God in humility and patience. have much to learn from these saints of God.

"The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus will".

We are each a part of the body of Christ alive in the world today. How will we live into that calling today?

Perhaps we should start by finishing the song.... "The saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too!"

Peace and joy to you my friends,




Sudan News

This past Sunday I shared this important news pertaining to The Episcopal Church in Southern Sudan. I ask that all continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ during these difficult times:

August 28, 2009
Dear All,
"Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His believers"
It was with deep sorrow we receive the death of Archdeacon Joseph Garang- he was the Archbishop Commissary in Bor to oversee the creation of Twic East Diocese.
The late Joseph was murdered (this morning Friday) in cold blood as the armed Murle attacked the Payam of Warniyol about 80 miles north of Bor town. About 30 people were killed and many more wounded.
Please let's pray for the family of the late and uphold the people in Bor particularly in the aftermath of this deadly attack.
The Rev. John Malesh
ECS Kampala

Here is
The Associated Press article on wearing pants in public:

KHARTOUM, Sudan — A woman journalist was convicted Monday of public indecency for wearing trousers, but was spared a sentence of flogging. A defiant Lubna Hussein said she would not pay a $200 fine and would take a month in prison instead to protest Sudan's draconian morality laws.

The 43-year old journalist has set out to challenge the police and courts since her arrest in July by insisting the case go to trial, aiming to embarrass the Khartoum government with the publicity. Her prosecution — and the prospect that she could get the full sentence of 40 lashes — drew an international outcry.

The judge's decision to impose a fine equivalent to $200 appeared to be an attempt to curb the criticism.

"I will not pay a penny," Hussein, who during the court session wore the same trousers that sparked her arrest, told The Associated Press after the ruling.

During the session, police rounded up about 40 women protesting outside the courthouse in support of Hussein, some of them wearing trousers as well in a sign of solidarity.

Sudan's government implements a conservative version of Islamic law in the north. Under public indecency laws, anyone committing an act or wearing clothing deemed indecent can be punished with a flogging or a fine, but lawyers and human rights groups say the law is too vague and arbitrary. In the capital the "public order" police enforce the laws, breaking up parties and scolding men and women who mingle in public.

In mostly Muslim northern Sudan, many women wear traditional flowing robes that also cover their hair, but it is also not uncommon for women to wear trousers, even though conservatives consider it immodest.

Public order police arrested Hussein along with around a dozen other women in a Khartoum public cafe. Ten of the women received a quick, closed-door trial and were flogged soon afterward, avoiding the social stigma associated with a public trial on morality charges.

Hussein, however, insisted on a public court and even resigned from her job in the U.N.'s public information office because it gave her immunity.

After a three-hour session Monday, the judge ruled Hussein's outfit indecent and imposed the fine. He said her clothes violated traditions that a woman should only "adorn themselves" for their husbands and not in public, Hussein's lawyer said.

Lawyers said Hussein would be taken to a jail in Omdurman, on the outskirts of Khartoum, after she refused the fine.

Galal al-Sayed, Hussein's lawyer, called the ruling "incorrect" because the judge ignored his request to present defense witnesses and based his decision on contradictory statements from the prosecution witnesses. Al-Sayed said he would appeal the conviction.

He said the judge had apparently opted for a fine, not flogging, to avoid international criticism. "There is a general sentiment in the world that flogging is humiliating."

Even before the ruling, Hussein said she would refuse any fine. "I won't pay, as a matter of principle," she said. "I would spend a month in jail. It is a chance to explore the conditions in jail."

It is not the first time Sudanese courts have raised an outcry. In 2007, a British teacher was charged with insulting Islam after she allowed her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad in a class project, which some radical clerics called an insult to Islam's prophet. She was convicted and sentenced to 15 days in prison, though not the possible sentence of 40 lashes — again, an apparent move to avoid worsening international criticism. She then received a presidential pardon and returned to Britain.

Hussein's case has raised a string of condemnations by international human rights groups, and Hussein has sought to draw attention to Sudan's morality laws.

Amnesty International called on the Sudanese government to withdraw the charges against Hussein and repeal the law which justifies such "abhorrent" penalties. The London-based group said Friday that the law allowing flogging is state-sanctioned torture.

It pointed to an incident in 2003 when eight women were flogged in public with plastic and wire whips, reportedly leaving permanent scars on the women. The women had been picnicking with male friends.

Human rights and political groups in Sudan say the law is in violation of the 2005 constitution drafted after a peace deal ended two decades of war between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south Sudan.

In a column Friday in the British daily Guardian, Hussein said her case is not an isolated one but is emblematic of repressive laws in a country with a long history of civil conflicts.

"When I think of my trial, I pray that my daughters will never live in fear of these police," she wrote.

Hussein said she would take the issue all the way to Sudan's Constitutional Court necessary, but that if the court rules against her and orders the flogging, she's ready "to receive (even) 40,000 lashes" if that what it takes to abolish the law. "We will only be secure once the police protect us and these laws are repealed," she wrote.

Government spokesman Rabie Abdel Attie said Monday that "this is not a way to change the law."

"Changing the laws goes through officials, and it is a continuous matter looked into by the parliament," he said.

Abdel Attie said many women in Sudan wear trousers in government offices and institutions. He said there may be other issues surrounding Hussein's case that led to her arrest, but he refused to elaborate on what they might be.

"These courts are not convened without a crime. Lubna was convicted and she should respect the law," he said.