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On the road in Southeast Florida with the Presiding Bishop


Seems like everything is blossoming in the Diocese of Southeast Florida.

The flowers are blossoming into a kaleidoscope of shapes and colors. The congregations are blossoming with a variety of ministries and languages. The church’s programs are blossoming into vibrant systems of education, assistance, development and growth.

During her short stay in the Diocese of Southeast Florida April 15 - 17, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori journeyed from the northern end of the diocese to the south, visiting five churches and addressing seven gatherings along the way. She was greeted in -- and responded in -- three languages. In fact, each worship service during the visit reflected the multicultural presence in the diocese, with prayers alternating in English, Spanish and French. The people, the Presiding Bishop and Bishop Leo Frade flawlessly flowed in and out of each language.

The Diocese of Southeast Florida, as described by Bishop Frade, stretches from Palm Beach to Miami and straight down the Keys, encompassing “five area codes in seven counties with 83 churches and 38,000 people.”

Over 700 gathered at historic Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, where the Presiding Bishop called for loving and helping neighbors.

“How we live on this earth is our primary peacemaking, world-reconciling, baptismal ministry,” she said in her sermon, “because it is most centrally about those things that Jesus urged on all those he sent out: spending enough time with others to see them as neighbors and children of the same God. Eating together helps, especially when you don’t complain about the food. Tending to the sickness and pain of those neighbors begins to bring peace in the neighborhood.”

Following the Eucharist, Jefferts Schori engaged the gathering, both those in the church as well as the overflow crowd in the adjacent parish hall, in an upbeat conversation. Topics were far-ranging: reducing carbon footprints, addictions and her recent trip to the Holy Land.

“The more I learn about the Holy Land, the more complex the situation seems,” she said. “Peace is possible if people of good faith work on it.”

Time with the priests
Named for the Rt. Rev. James Duncan, the first bishop of diocese of Southeast FL, the Duncan Conference Center in Delray Beach is a quiet, pastoral setting used by many groups and organizations in the Episcopal Church and other denominations. But it also boasts state-of-the-art-technology, allowing a videoconferencing connection for participation by a group in faraway Key West.

The Eucharist was paper-free, with words and music flashed on large screens.

In her sermon Jefferts Schori pointed to diversity. “We’re meant to sing, as boldly as we know, in parts, in a harmony.”

She challenged the priests, “Where are you going to go to sing God’s song? With whom are you going to sing it?”

With music provided by the five-piece St. John’s Unplugged Band, Eucharist concluded with everyone clapping, singing and swinging to “Ode to Joy.”

Diocesan clergy talked with their Presiding Bishop about missionaries, the reorganization of the church center, interfaith efforts, the parochial report, and the many who comprise the Episcopal Church.

What has she learned after almost a year and a half as Presiding Bishop? “I learned how deeply invested this church is in mission and how it is blooming in multiple contexts.”

To a priest who serves a congregation with 22 nationalities, Jefferts Schori said, “I firmly believe that the future of the church is multicultural.”

Trinity Cathedral in downtown Miami
Following an ancient tradition, the Presiding Bishop knocked on the great cathedral doors three times before entering Trinity Cathedral in downtown Miami, a huge edifice highlighted and made beautiful by mosaics of the life of Jesus and the creation. The cathedral, founded in 1896, is the oldest church in the original city limits of Miami.

“When we have an abiding sense of God’s presence, I think we learn to sing in parts,” preached the Presiding Bishop. “And the harmony is a more fitting glory to God than any one theme.”

Jefferts Schori continued, “We sing slightly different tunes in our different places of ministry. Together, we can sing a far more intriguing, complex, and beautiful song than any of us alone. That’s what this diocese is about, singing a song of transformation.”

During the service, Frade presented the Presiding Bishop with two checks: $14,720.04 for hurricane aid to the dioceses of Mississippi and Louisiana; and $4299.35 for the Good Friday collection for the church in Jerusalem.

During the following Q&A time, she addressed inquires from the congregation of about 450 concerning Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), the Mothers Union, and her vision for Episcopal youth.

“Youth are important,” Jefferts Schori said. “I think you have the ability to teach the rest of the church about the challenges and gifts of our technology. Your very rootedness in that culture gives you a perspective that your adults will never have.”

What about the future? “Our churches will continue to offer services on Sunday morning,” she said to thunderous applause, “and Episcopalians are going to continue to serve their neighbors here and around the world. There are a handful of archbishops who are unhappy with us and the Anglican Church of Canada. Increasingly in other provinces people are saying, ”In our provinces we have children dying of disease and no jobs and we need to focus on that.’ The relationships we have with other parts of the Anglican Communion for mission purposes are important"

Visiting three churches
One of the largest African-American churches in the country, historic St. Agnes began in 1897 as a home for people from the Bahamas to worship. It has been a vital force in the community for many years, planting other churches, working in the forefront for affordable housing, and serving as the site for many meetings “because blacks couldn’t go to the hotels in those days,” explained the Rev. Canon Dr. Richard L. Barry, rector.

New senior citizen housing sponsored by St. Agnes is about to open. During a tour of Villas of St. Agnes, consisting of 80 two-story three- and four-bedroom homes, Erica McKinney, on behalf of the mayor of Miami, presented the Presiding Bishop with the key to the city -- a large, gold, ornate, old-fashioned style key.

French was the main language at St. Paul’s et les Martyrs d’Haiti. But in a new model for churches, this Haitian church recently opened its doors to a Hispanic congregation, Iglesia Episcopal Trinidad, co-housed in the same building.

“This is the church I was confirmed in,” the Cuban-born Frade said with a smile, pointing to Todos Los Santos, in the Little Havana section of Miami. All prayers, songs and the Q&A were conducted in the congregation’s native tongue of Spanish.

During her visit, the Presiding Bishop also learned about the diocese’s innovative Nehemiah Process, which involves a multi-year commitment for transformational discernment, training and implementation of a ministry plan for congregational growth, focusing on outreach and inreach.


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