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November 2023

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"In Christ, Called to Collaborate":

Diocesan Convention advances racial justice work,

creates Healthy Congregations Task Force

Convention Photos: Tracy J. Sukraw

View Diocesan Convention photo gallery.

Clergy and delegates of eastern Massachusetts Episcopal congregations, gathered in Diocesan Convention last month, adopted measures to advance ongoing racial justice work in the diocese as well as congregational health and wellness, and they expanded organizational procedures in the diocesan canons to allow for a new category of "intentional Episcopal communities."

Convention-goers also took time to consider together how they and their congregations are called, in Christ, to collaborate--this year's theme.

Diocesan Convention, the primary representative governing body of the diocese, took place Oct. 27-28 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel North Shore in Danvers.

Bishop Gates gives his annual address.

With escalating war violence between Israel and Hamas and the resulting human suffering on the minds and hearts of many, Bishop Alan M. Gates, in his annual address [video and text available here], noted Jesus' admonition in Matthew 22:21: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” 

"In citing that duality, Jesus simultaneously debunks it," Gates said. "It was a false and deceitful dichotomy, because of course everything is God’s. And in the Middle East, all the land is God’s, and all the children are God’s, and all the cruelty and suffering and so-called 'collateral damage' is an abomination to God.

"I do not know the solution to the intractable hostilities in the Middle East. I don’t think you do either," Gates said. "But I am certain that we must reject the easy dualities and reductionist platitudes of blame and blamelessness; of good and bad; of the primacy of ancient history versus recent history. Our task, I think, is to condemn indiscriminate violence and cruelty wherever we see it; to extend compassionate care wherever we can support it; to join calls for an immediate ceasefire; to demand humanitarian action on the part of our own government and others; and to pray fervently for people of all faiths who are acting as agents of justice and peace. That, I think, is our task."

An offering of $5,400 was collected during the convention's Saturday morning service of Holy Eucharist, to be divided between the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Episcopal Relief & Development for wartime relief in the Holy Land. 

Among convention's actions:

Convention adopted the proposed $9-million diocesan budget for 2024. It includes a $92,000 initial allocation to the diocesan Reparations Fund that the convention voted last year to establish.

Convention also adopted a resolution from the diocesan Racial Justice Commission that further articulates the new fund's purpose, proposes guiding principles for the fund and calls for the creation of a Reparations Fund Committee to oversee it.

A successful second resolution proposed by the Racial Justice Commission urges the diocesan Budget Committee to allocate annual funding of at least $20,000 for ongoing racial justice work within the diocesan and cathedral staffs.

A resolution calling for the creation of a Healthy Congregations Task Force also was approved. The new task force is charged with identifying components of healthy congregations and available and needed resourceswith a particular focus on mental health supports. The resolution was amended to include the additional identification of "resources to help congregations faithfully evaluate the sustainability of their ministries."

After considerable discussion, the convention approved an amendment to diocesan Canon 14, which details the procedures for organization and classification of congregations and their admission into union with Diocesan Convention. The amendment allows for a new category, "intentional Episcopal communities," alongside the more traditional parish, mission and summer chapel entities that are procedurally recognized. 

The legitimacy and merit of the new category was not the focus of debate; instead, discussion centered on how the amendment might misalign with other parts of diocesan and churchwide canons, and whether more time should be taken to work out conceptual complexities and their potential consequencesparticularly related to property matters. In the end, the amendment was adopted as proposed and goes into effect immediately.  

Find the text of these and all other convention actions, in final form, here.

"Called to collaborate":

Saturday's convention business sessions followed a discussion program the previous afternoon, featuring a panel of ministry "collaborators" sharing their stories of working together in creative and fruitful ways. View the livestream recording here

In an evening keynote address, the Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers, Staff Officer for Church Planting for The Episcopal Church, challenged and inspired convention-goers to think and talk together about collaboration in terms of being in solidarity and mutual, co-creative relationship with their neighbors. 

"Collaboration is a deeply spiritual practice," she said. "Spiritual transformation always involves some kind of inversion of power...and God wants that for us." View the livestream recording here.

Friday afternoon panel participants (back from left): Guest speaker, The Rev. Katie Nakamura Rengers; Jane Emack-Cambra (Church of Our Saviour, Somerset); The Rev. Joel Almono (Grace Church, Lawrence); The Rev. Lee Bluemel (North Parish of North Andover, UU); Laurie Labrecque (St. Paul's Church, Hopkinton); Jamie Shore (Emmanuel Church, Boston and CRECHE Emmanuel House); panel moderator, The Rev. Isaac Martinez (Trinity Church, Melrose and Allston Abbey); (front) Jenn Paiva (Our Saviour, Somerset); The Rev. Mary Rosendale (St. Paul's Church, Hopkinton and St. Stephen's Church, Westborough); and Rebekah Rodrigues (Emmanuel Church, Boston and CRECHE Emmanuel House).

Special recognitions at Diocesan Convention:

Bishop Alan M. Gates

Chairing his final annual Diocesan Convention before retirement in 2024

"We give thanks to God for him for the many blessings of collegiality, respect, thoughtfulness, care, hospitality, attentiveness, fairness, equanimity and grace he has brought to our diocese and shared life, and we look forward to celebrating his episcopacy in the coming months as we prepare for his successor," reads the resolution adopted in response to his annual address. Find the full resolution in response, along with an additional resolution honoring Gates, here.

Grace Church, Everett

Closing this year

Bishop Gates acknowledged Grace Church in his annual address, saying, "After 140 years of faithful worship and service, the vestry and people of Grace Church took the decision this fall to close. We honor those who through the generations have glorified God in that place." He added, "I am grateful to say that the South Sudanese congregation which has worshiped at Grace Church for more than a decade will continue elsewhere, for now enjoying the hospitality of St. Paul’s, Malden, as that Dinka congregation determines its best, long-term location. Thanks be to God."

Chris Meyer,

St. Gabriel's Church, Marion

For two decades of leadership

"From its outset in 2004, Chris was a member of the Business Consultants who helped our churches adopt best practices in their finances and operations. He succeeded Jack Doran as leader of that group in 2007. Several years later, Chris brought together the Business Consultants and the Congregational Coaches into what we now know as the Congregational Consultants," Bishop Gates said, and presented Meyer with an Old North lantern replica.

"Chris has been adept at matching specific skill sets and experience with parish needs, providing outstanding support to the consultants as they serve our churches. Chris has offered his own personal experience and his expertise as a business leader over countless hours as a volunteer for these two decades." Read the full recognition here.

The Rev. Rachel Wildman,

Trinity Church, Canton and

Trinity Church, Stoughton

Concluding three years as secretary of the diocese

"It would be impossible to overestimate the number of hours Rachel has spent in this volunteer, non-stipendiary role of service," Bishop Gates said. "Like the sacred labor of altar guilds across the church, this is work which is largely unseen except when there is a glitch. None of it 'just happens.'

"Rachel has labored alongside diocesan administrative staff through particularly challenging years as we’ve navigated online, hybrid and in-person arrangements for Convention in ways never imagined in the history of our diocese," Bishop Gates said. "She is, simply, someone who gets things done, with grace and good cheer." Read the full recognition here.


Participating in a panel discussion following the film's New England premiere are (from left) cinematographer Nikki Bramley, the Rev. Malia Crawford of the Church of Our Saviour in Arlington, director Margo Guernsey and panel moderator Lisa Wangsness. Photo: Tracy J. Sukraw

"Philadelphia Eleven" wins Audience Award at GlobeDocs screening: "The Philadelphia Eleven"a documentary film by Margo Guernsey and Nikki Bramley that tells the story of the unauthorized ordination of 11 women as Episcopal priests in 1974had its New England premiere on Oct. 29 at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge as part of the GlobeDocs Film Festival, and went on to win the festival's Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature.

During the post-film panel discussion, Guernsey said that from the beginning of the project back in 2015, its subject spoke to her "even though I'm not [an] Episcopalian because it's a story about overcoming barriers and pursuing your vocation."

"We're not all called to be a priest, but we're all called to do something, and when institutions, especially institutions that have such a long tradition, stand in our way," she said, "to watch how other women have stood up and said, this is my calling, this is for me, and to see how they did it with such grace, that is an example for all of us."

The film comes out just ahead of the 50th anniversary, in 2024, of the historic Philadelphia 11 ordinations.

Upcoming local screenings, announced at the event and listed on the film's website, include Nov. 17 at Christ Church in Cambridge, Nov. 18 at All Saints Church in Worcester, Nov. 20 at the Cape Ann Community Cinema in Rockport, Nov. 29 at Emmanuel Church in Boston, Nov. 30 at the Watertown Free Public Library (sponsored by the Church of the Good Shepherd in Watertown) and Jan. 21 at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester.

Learn more about the film and watch the trailer here.

The Rev. Elsa P. Walberg (1925-2023)

Courtesy photo

Remembering a "pastoral witness":

The Rev. Elsa P. Walberg, Diocese of Massachusetts' first woman ordained deacon, first woman to serve as full-time rector:

The Rev. Elsa Phyllis Walberg, 98, died on Nov. 2 at Seabury Retirement Community in Bloomfield, Conn.

She was the first woman to be ordained a deacon in the Diocese of Massachusetts, in 1972, and among the early women to be ordained to the Episcopal Church priesthood, in 1977. 

"Elsa Walberg is known to many in Massachusetts for her efforts on the national, provincial and diocesan levels to support the ordination of women," the diocesan newspaper, The Episcopal Times, reported in a February 1977 article (available here courtesy of the Diocesan Library and Archives).

"In her five years as deacon-at-large," the article noted, "she has shared in the life and worship of some 90 parishes in this diocese."

Among those was Trinity Parish in Melrose, where Walberg served as an assistant from 1962 until 1973, and after her ordination to the priesthood, St. Andrew’s Church in Wellesley, where she was associate rector from 1977 until 1983.

Walberg "declined to participate in the so-called 'irregular' ordinations of 11 women in July 1974, much as she would have liked to be confirmed in her priesthood at that time," the Episcopal Times article reported. "She views the 11 ordinations as a 'prophetic witness' and, to be sure, a controversial one."

"'The church always needs prophets but they're never very popular,'" Walberg said, adding that she considered her ministry a "pastoral witness."

In May 1983 she was installed as the second rector of St. Paul's Church in Bedford, and as such, was the first woman to serve as a full-time rector in the Diocese of Massachusetts. She served at St. Paul’s until her retirement in 1991.

Walberg was a devout member of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross. After moving to Connecticut in retirement, she was instrumental in helping to develop a healing ministry at St. James's Church in West Hartford, where she was a priest associate.

Born to Sophie (Thesenvitz) and George Phillip Walberg on Aug. 2, 1925, in New York City, she leaves one brother, Arthur George Walberg; seven nephews and their families; and a special Seabury friend and advocate, Daphne Wilcox.

A memorial service was held on Nov. 13 in the Bishops' Chapel at Seabury. Memorial donations are welcome to the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, 46 Elm Street, Byfield MA 01922 or the Chaplain’s Discretionary Fund, c/o The Rev. Ann Lovejoy Johnson, 200 Seabury Drive, Bloomfield CT 06002.

Read the obituary here.

African Descent Ministries convenes Diocese of Massachusetts church leaders for Black Congregational Leadership Initiative: The Episcopal Church's African Descent Ministries hosted its third Black Congregational Leadership Initiative Oct. 30-Nov. 2 at the Hilton Dedham for Diocese of Massachusetts church leaders. The program aims to provide clergy and lay leaders in African-descent and multicultural congregations with resources, tools and other support to help address the leadership and financial challenges of congregational ministry now. Participating congregations receive ongoing professional coaching for nine months to encourage and support the implementation of plans formulated during the conference. Diocese of Massachusetts Assistant Bishop Carol J. Gallagher brought greetings to the conference on Nov. 1, and is pictured above, at center front, with participating church leaders. Courtesy photo

Canon for immigration and multicultural ministries honored by RIM: Refugee Immigration Ministry (RIM) honored the Rev. Canon Dr. Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa with its Founder's Award during its 37th Anniversary International Dinner on Nov. 12 in Watertown. Ntagengwa is the canon for immigration and multicultural ministries on the diocesan staff, and served in the past as a case manager for RIM. He is pictured receiving the award from the Rev. Isaac Seelam. Playwright and poet Sarbpreet Singh was also honored at the event. Courtesy photo

"O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High": This online Advent retreat on Saturday, Dec. 16, 9:30 a.m.-noon, takes its name from the opening line of a 15th-century hymn attributed to Thomas á Kempis. Guided by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, those gathered will enjoy a morning of listening, prayer and conversation. The time together will include presentations, guided meditation and gathering in small groups.

All are welcome to join this fourth annual online Advent retreat, free and open to all, sponsored by both Episcopal dioceses in Massachusetts and the Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ.  Register here.

In the News

WXTK Newsradio 95: Thanksgiving Turkeys for Cape Codders: In this "Spectrum" program segment, Ron Bearse, a member of St. Mary's Church in Barnstable Village, and Caronanne Procaccini, the director of Client Self-Sufficiency and Compliance at the Community Action Committee of Cape & Islands, talk about the Thanksgiving Turkeys for Cape Codders program. As part of efforts to address food insecurity on Cape Cod, this 18-year community partnership provides families with frozen turkeys and grocery gift certificates for Thanksgivingplus ice cream. "It's quite a machine putting this event together and St. Mary's is happy to be part of it," Bearse says. Listen here

Boston Globe: For organists, Boston is a city of (pipe) dreams: The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for organists and the unique instruments they play. However, for curious listeners, this also means it’s one of the easiest times to hear these instruments sounding off live. And you should hear them live, since no two organs, or spaces where the organs live, are the same, Cathedral Church of St. Paul music director and organist Louise Mundinger tells the Boston Globe in its Nov. 10 Holiday Arts Preview, also featuring the organ at Old North Church. Read more.

Falmouth Enterprise: A roomier rental for Falmouth's homeless: An outreach group is upgrading to more spacious quarters to house women experiencing homelessness in Falmouth through the winter months. Belonging To Each Other has teamed up with St. Barnabas’s Church to offer a home with more bedrooms and common areas than they have had in the past as a refuge from November through April.

On Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 1, as a steady rain fell, the house—a vacated building owned by the church—was abuzz with a bevy of volunteers hauling in furniture, linens and kitchen supplies. Gina M. Torielli, BTEO’s executive director, moved from room to room with instructions and encouragement.

“Tonight it’s going to be 30 degrees,” Ms. Torielli said. “So we’re working like hell trying to get them in tonight.”

The “them” are seven women, all of whom are living in tents or cars in Falmouth. Once in the house, the women will be helped by a suite of social workers, with the aim of finding them stable housing ahead of next summer, Torielli said. Read more.

Dartmouth Week: Padanaram poses for East Texas in independent movie shoot: Filming “St. Jones Ditch” has brought director Jeffrey Long, writer Sarah Brockmann and the cast and crew all over Rhode Island, the South Shore and the South Coast. The only complication? The movie takes place in East Texas. 

The latest location to pose as the titular Lone Star town is Padanaram Village — more specifically, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and even more specifically, the old barn behind it. 

Brockmann is an Episcopal priest herself, at Trinity Church in Rockland, and found the location by putting out a call to fellow clergy people. Scott Ciosek, rector of St. Peter’s, responded and said he’d love to help out. Read more.

MassLive: Waltham food pantry finds new home at local church without missing a day of service: When the leaders of Bristol Lodge, a food pantry and soup kitchen operated by Middlesex Human Service Agency, learned earlier this year that the Waltham church they had been working out of for 18 years needed its space back, they set to work finding a new home.

This month, Bristol Lodge began serving hot meals out of its new location at Christ Church Episcopal at 750 Main St. without missing a single day of service. Read more.

Salem News: St. Peter's Church, Beverly welcomes new rector: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Beverly has called the Rev. Christopher Whiteman to serve as the 16th rector in the church’s history.

Whiteman was formally installed as rector on Oct. 20 by the Rt. Rev. Carol Gallagher, the assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Church on Ocean Street.

In a news release, Whiteman said he was “delighted to accept the call to be St. Peter’s new rector.”

“I am particularly pleased to be joining this parish in living out their mission of feeding God’s people in Beverly,” he said. “In speaking with the search committee, I was especially struck by their authenticity and vulnerability while conveying the joys, struggles and challenges of being God’s people on the corner of Ocean and Hale streets.” Read more.

Coming Up 

Nov 18: Celebrating the Sacraments of Healing Workshop, St. Mark's Church, Southborough, 9:00am

Nov 18: Christmas Fair, Parish of the Epiphany, Winchester, 10:00am

Nov 19: Bishop Carol Gallagher visits St. Dunstan's Church in Dover

Nov 19: Bishop Gates visits Trinity Church in Woburn

Nov 19: "Spirit + material: The Brave New World of Ralph Adams Cram" Anniversary Talk and Celebration, St. Paul's Church, Malden, 2:00pm

Nov 21: Advent Evening Prayer, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:00pm

Nov. 25: Christmas Festival and Wreath Sale, St. Paul's Church, Newburyport, 10:00am-2:00pm

Nov. 28: Advent Evening Prayer, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:00pm

Dec 3: Bishop Gates visits St. John's Church in Arlington

Dec 3: Bishop Gallagher visits Grace Church in North Attlelboro

Dec 5: Advent Evening Prayer, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:00pm

Dec 6: Embrace Exploratory Choral Meditations with Nightingale Vocal Ensemble, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 1:00pm

Dec 7: Diocesan Council Meeting, via Zoom, 6:00pm

Dec 9: Ordination to the Priesthood: The Rev. Kevin Vetiac, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 10:30am

Dec 10: Bishop Gallagher visits St. Andrew's Church in New Bedford

Dec 10: Bishop Gates visits St. John's Church in Charlestown

Dec 12: Advent Evening Prayer, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:00pm

Dec 14: Province I Conference, via Zoom, 6:30pm

Dec 16: "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High": Advent Online Retreat with the Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, via Zoom, 9:30am

Dec 16: Ordination to the Priesthood: The Rev. Paul Keene, Christ Church, Short Hills, N.J., 10:00am

Dec 16: Ordination to the Priesthood: The Rev. Lisa Faber Ginggen, St. James's Church, Groveland, 10:00am

Dec 16: Embrace Embience Concert, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 4:00pm

Dec 16: Ordination to the Priesthood: The Rev. Michael Thompson, St. John's Church, Newtonville, 3:00pm

Dec 17: Bishop Gallagher visits Church of Our Saviour in Milton

Dec 17: Bishop Gates visits Trinity Church in Haverhill

Dec 19: Advent Evening Prayer, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 5:00pm

Dec 19: Ordination to the Priesthood: The Rev. Keith Nelson, SSJE, Society of St. John the Evangelist Monastery, Cambridge, 5:30pm

Dec 24: Christmas Eve Candlelight Mass, Bishop Alan M. Gates preaching, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 7:00pm

Dec 31: Christmas Lessons and Carols, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Boston, 10:00am

Full Calendar
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