Over the years, Episcopal Peace Fellowship has worked closely with the Episcopal Urban Caucus.Our mission and goals are similar in many ways.
Both organizations are grounded by the Baptismal Covenant in our Book of Common Prayer. Episcopal Urban Caucus grew out of the Urban Bishops Coalition and the Church and City Conference. As Rev. Joseph Pelham reported back in 1978, there was and is a "need for a national organization, for partners, and for a coalition to strengthen the role of the local urban parish."
This need still exists. To loosely paraphrase a conversation I had with Rev. Tim Yeager a few years back, "this parish occupies a whole city block - tax free. We owe it to the neighborhood, not just to preach the Gospel, but also to serve the local community." The Episcopal Urban Caucus offers a Rule of Life that exemplifies his statement.
Even though the EPF national office moved to the mountains of central Pennsylvania from Ithaca, NY, I now find myself in a relatively urban parish. It's in a small city, but we have similar challenges to big cities, just on a much smaller scale.
Poverty, violence, unemployment, racism - all of these injustices still exist to varying degrees. Some aspects are so very different from attending a rural parish, but some are very similar. The Episcopal Urban Caucus, founded in 1980, serves to "be an instrument of the Gospel exercising radical discipleship in Church and Society, and to hold the feet of the Episcopal Church to the fire of social justice." To me, it sounded like the perfect group of people to help me make the transition from rural to urban. As it turns out, it was.
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Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Connecticut for the Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly. The Assembly was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. EUC President Canon Robert Brooks and the EUC Board organized great workshops. I was spoilt by choice. Workshops focused on economic justice, immigration, reconciliation, gun violence prevention, and response to tragedy including some of the families in Newtown, CT.
For new members & guests, they hold an orientation session to tell the history, mission and future plans of EUC. The keynote speaker, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, spoke at length about his work towards ending racial bias in the juvenile justice system.
We participated in site visits to Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford and to Educational Resources for Children, an afterschool program to develop resilient children. EUC also offers programs for youth at their yearly Assembly meetings, so the ERfC visit was of great interest.
Bishop Ian Douglas & Bishop Laura Ahrens (shown here with Canon Robert Brooks) hosted Eucharist at The Commons, Meriden CT. It's the new center for the Episcopal Church in CT. The Commons is beautiful. It's a multi-function moveable space. Nearly all open plan, in a reclaimed factory building. They have incorporated the stained glass from the Cathedral in to fabulous displays- even featuring Jonathon Daniels!
Each year, the EUC Assembly includes an Episcopal Peace Fellowship Luncheon. It's a chance for EPF members to reconnect and share a meal. Our speaker, the Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell, is co-founder & exec director of Your Place Youth Center & Priest-in-Charge at St. Monica's Episcopal Church, in Hartford Connecticut. She gave powerful testimony and hope to communities that thrive, even in the midst of shocking violence on a daily basis. We are grateful for her time to be with us.
We hope that you will join us for Assembly in March, 2016 in Wilmington, DE. It was such a powerful experience for me. I can't say enough good things about my time with the folks of EUC. If you get a chance, check out their publication To Hear & To Heed, the Episcopal Church Listens & Acts in the City. It is available for free download here. We'd love to see you at the EPF luncheon, and if possible, the whole Episcopal Urban Caucus Assembly!
-Shannon Mikolajczyk Berndt, EPF Member Services Coordinator