Brazil, U.S.- based churches share common mission
Amazon-district experts outline environmental, pastoral care as Presiding Bishop begins visit in Brazilian capitol.
Two wooden chalices -- both newly carved from the same block of cedar -- tell of shared faith and friendship rooted in Brazil and the United States.
Handcrafted by artisan-priest Jesse Ramos of Sao Leopoldo, the new vessels brimmed at Eucharistic celebrations also joy-filled by the longstanding collaboration between the 100,000-member Portuguese-speaking Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, two of the Anglican Communion’s 38 member Provinces.
The new altarware was commissioned by Brazil’s Primate Bishop Mauricio Andrade to mark “the deep connections between our two churches, and our happiness in welcoming Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for a historic visit” July 6-10 in Brasilia, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.
“It is an enormous blessing for me to be sharing in your life at this time,” Jefferts Schori told the congregation that filled Porto Alegre’s 104-year-old Holy Trinity Cathedral for a Sunday-evening Eucharist July 8. “Our two churches have grown in friendship since the late 1800s…. May we continue to grow into the full stature of Christ… as a sign of Christ’s One Body in the world.”
Jefferts Schori thanked Andrade for the “privilege of his invitation” to Brazil. The official visit to another Anglican Province is the first in her nine-year term as Presiding Bishop.
Also arriving in Brazil concurrently was an eight-member delegation from the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Indianapolis, which shares a companion-relationship triad with the Diocese of Brasilia and Sudan’s Diocese of Bor.
The Presiding Bishop added that she and fellow visitors -- including her husband, Richard Schori, and the Rev. Canon Juan Marquez, the Episcopal Church’s partnership officer for Anglican and Global Relations in Latin America and the Caribbean -- would “take your friendship home with us in our hearts” to share more widely.
In a moving exchange at the conclusion of the Sunday liturgy, Andrade presented Jefferts Schori with one of the new chalices and an accompanying paten to bring back to New York as a reminder of the history and new mission opportunities between the two provincial churches.
“Another chalice and paten will remain here in Brazil as a similar reminder,” said Andrade, reiterating the significance that both chalices and both patens were created from the same piece of wood, “one tree” -- much as the Brazilian church was planted via U.S. missionary work beginning in 1890 and advancing to become its own autonomous Anglican Province in 1965, growing to add two new dioceses and one new missionary district since 2000.
Primate (or “Bispo Primaz” in Portuguese) since 2006, Andrade also pointed to the shared mission priorities engrained in the ties between the two churches, including pastoral and environmental care consonant with inter-Anglican commitments to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
One emphases is environmental advocacy informed by Amazon-region experts vigilant in the protection of Brazil’s unique natural resources: 12 percent of the planet’s fresh water and 20 percent of the world’s animal species are found in this vast nation of more than 8.5 million square miles and 170 million people -- South America’s largest country with 26 states and one federal district -- now working systematically to fight deforestation and climate change.
Environmental minister outlines progress
Welcoming the delegation on July 6 to government offices in Brasilia, national environmental minister Marina Silva told the group of the “holistic, integrated” work of protecting the nation’s unique biodiversity locally, regionally and globally amid such factors as climate change and economic exploitation.
Silva’s perspective, shaped by her own upbringing in the Amazon, takes an egalitarian, comprehensive, multi-agency approach to environmental protection seeking “self-maintaining development,” she said.
Because Brazil is “a developing country, we cannot talk about the environment unless we talk about the social issues facing the nation, including the distribution of wealth and the reality of 53 million people living below the poverty line,” Silva said, speaking through interpreter Ruth Barros, wife of Amazonia bishop Saulo Barros, also present for the briefing.
The Barroses had earlier that afternoon outlined for the delegation the challenges of ministry in the newly formed Amazonia diocese where social services are stretched to capacity given demand. The diocese would benefit from a companion relationship with a dedicated and supportive diocese of the Episcopal Church, the delegation agreed.
Similar existing and emerging companion relationships, in addition to Brasilia-Indianapolis, include Sao Paulo-Central Pennsylvania; Rio de Janeiro-Atlanta; Curitiba-California (San Francisco Bay Area); and Pelotas-Ottawa, Canada. Open to new companion relationships, in addition to Amazonia, are the Recife, Southern, and Southwestern dioceses, as well as the Missionary District of the West.
“The great challenge is to achieve a process of social inclusion that is just,” environmental minister Silva said, noting that in the last four years of Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva’s government, the number of persons living in poverty has decreased by some 19.4 percent.
“Developing countries don’t want to make the same mistakes developed countries have made,” she added.
Silva spoke of her agency’s tenacious work to overcome problems with large-scale private-sector development projects, including the building of roadways.
“Now a diverse group of various segments of society is involved in building this road, and this group is evaluating the process to see the government keeping its promises according to the plan,” Silva said. “Today, the road is being built, and deforestation has diminished by some 91 percent.”
She said the matter of “combating deforestation in the Amazon now involves 13 government ministries” coordinated by national officials under a plan begun in 2004.
“In the beginning, no one believed it would work. In its second year, the plan decreased deforestation in this area by 50 percent,” Silva said, “and this year, the plan’s third year, it appears that deforestation will decrease again.”
Noting Jefferts Schori’s own training as an oceanographer, Silva spoke of the need to protect Brazil’s fresh water supply and unique animal species.
Jefferts Schori, in sermons following the dialogue, said Silva “has passion and certainty about her work, and she believes it is about bringing peace that is only about bringing justice… bringing abundance to those who suffer with so little,” considering the “whole garden” of creation.
Preaching in both the Brasilia and Porto Alegre cathedrals on the Sunday scripture lessons of Isaiah 6:1-8 and John 20:19-23, Jefferts Schori called the congregations to “Receive Holy Spirit, and go out there to build a world of peace.”
She asked: "What prevents us from being able to say ’yes’ to God’s dream of a healed world? Who can God send? Who will go for us?
“The prayer of our hearts is that we will be able to say, ’Here I am, send me,’” she said. “May peace be the product of our hands and hearts and minds. May we be peace for the whole world.”
Global, local mission
Facets of Brazil’s international diplomatic community were reflected in a July 6 evening reception hosted in the Presiding Bishop’s honor by Guyana’s Ambassador to Brazil, the Honorable Marilyn Cheryl Miles and her husband, John Miles, on the embassy grounds in Brasilia, the nation’s modern capitol built in the early 1960s.
The evening’s menu and entertainment was enriched by contributions from across the local diplomatic corps, several of whose members, including Ambassador Miles, attend services at Brasilia’s Resurrection Cathedral.
Sharing in the reception were representatives of Ecuador, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Zimbabwe, in addition to Guyana.
In Brasilia, local ministry was explored as the delegation made a Saturday-morning visit to the nearby community of Pedregal, its Holy Trinity Church, and Pentecost Mission that provides a vibrant program for neighborhood children.
The visit formed the basis of a newspaper article carried in Sunday’s editions of Correio Braziliense, one of the capitol city’s leading newspapers.
Among leaders of the children’s center is Lucas Andrade, one of the bishop’s three sons, who is a college student specializing in molecular biology. His brothers Thiago, a college student studying history and international diplomacy, and Pedro, who has just finished high school with the goal of studying social science , joined with their mother, Sandra, and father in hosting the visiting delegations from New York and Indianapolis.
The Brazilian Church’s Provincial Secretary, the Rev. Canon Francisco de Assis, oversaw arrangements for the visit, assisted by fellow priest Luiz Alberto Barbosa, president of the province’s House of Deputies and general secretary of Brazil’s National Council of Churches.
Bishops, clergy and laity from across the Brazilian Church’s nine dioceses and one missionary district joined in meetings with the Presiding Bishop, describing the outreach of local ministries.
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