Home again

March 17, 2007 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Laura, The Way Home: Thursday, 15 March 2007 | Leave a comment

Well everybody, I am home safe and sound. I do believe that everyone else from TEAM has also arrived home by now unless they were to visit other African areas while on the continent. The last three days of the conference were a blur and I didn’t have much time to sleep, let alone blog! Things went very well those last few days. It seems that is where many of the relationships we’d all been working on really started to gel. People wanted to go out for a drink after dinner. There was dancing by the fire light with the live band. Having deep meaningful discussion that will carry us back home and continue to challenge us to grow into our Faith. And that’s where most of us are now, back home. So now is where we get to see how everyone brings home the knowledge we’ve gained and the skills we’ve learned. A movement is being created in the Anglican church, and it’s going to change the world. I’ve been pondering what I’m going to do as far as keeping those of you who want to continue reading about what is happening in my life and my state with the MDG’s. All though now that I’m home I have to prioritize my life again with my massage studio, nutrition line, family, friends, and “me” time I don’t have a whole lot of time to blog. However, I do plan on implementing what I’ve learned into many different aspects of my city, state, and world. So I’m thinking on such occasions when big things are happening I would in fact have time to write a little piece about it in a blog. So please stay tuned for the final entry I’ll do on this page. It’ll include the new website that I’ll be posting, as well as other fabulous Minnesotan’s regarding what’s going on in our corner of the world in relation to the MDG’s.

Peace,
Laura

Reflections on possiblities

March 13, 2007 at 9:51 am | Posted in Day 6: Monday, 12 March 2007, Laura | 2 Comments

Today before lunch the Archdeacon of Toronto asked me to pose in front of a sign that reads “Quiet Please.” After dinner Douglas Fenton asked me if I had an “inside voice.” I am happy to reflect that this must mean I am truly being myself here at the conference. I feel for that for a 24 year-old woman who’s only been a Christian for 3 years I’ve held my own pretty well. Sure I’ve really stuck my foot in my mouth a few times (revisit my post about Day 2) And I’ve probably stepped on a few toes that I don’t even know about. I certainly have learned a lot more about the Church and its inner workings in the week past. But I’ve chosen to understand them and then move back to the important piece of actually acting out the mission of God. However, in light of these new learnings I certainly can see how churchpeople could in some ways consider me a liability instead of an asset. I’m happy that they have chosen to see me as the latter. And I really feel that they have done that in my days past. I have built relationships up I never would’ve otherwise had the opportunity to do in my life. I have seen a country that acts out the Gospel in ways that must make God dance. I have honed my own gifts to be able to continue to give to the church in a lifegiving and much needed way. Best of all I have learned things about myself that I never alone would have been able to uncover. I really believe that this is what the Kingdom Of God looks, acts, and feels like. People reaching out to people and pulling out things that need to be pulled out. Cleaning each others wounds that would otherwise had been left dirty. Drawing ourselves deeper into our own spiritual journeys by asking others to join one another in the mission we are on this earth to do, “give the poor a fair chance.”

Being at this conference has been an amazing experience. Hearing what stories people have to tell from all over the world in all walks of life. I do not feel that at any time did I have to comprimise who I was in order to fit in. I cannot tell you how much of a different experience that is of the church than others I’ve heard from. In fact, a marvelous woman who told her story today talked about when she was first diagnosed HIV-positive. The church figured it out after she started to drop weight and her glands started to swell. The church she was a part of told her she was dirty and a sinner in the eyes of God. Now 13 years later, young men and women confide in her that there are places they have started to feel more comfortable coming out about their HIV status. The church however, is defiantly not one of them.

She posed the most interesting question: Why are we as Anglicans working to help the poor, the afflicted, the less fortunate then ourselves? Is it because we the church want to reach out to them who don’t have as much or enough? Do we the church want to reach out to them so we feel better about ourselves? Do we the church want to help them because it is what God is calling us to do? If so, then we need to do some serious “coming to Jesus” because that is NOT what we the church should ever use as reasons for doing the mission of the church. We the church need to reach out because our church has AIDS, our church is hungry, our church is hurt, our church is afflicted. The latter of these is what Christ calls us to do. The former is what divides the “us” and “them.” Getting honest with ourselves about why we are doing the work of Jesus is getting layers deep into spiritually defining ourselves. It’s certainly not a space I’d want individuals to start. But for those of us who have started down the path all ready of healing the sick and comforting the afflicted, it’s time for us to delve further into why that is. Because when we start to undo those layers, we start to truly live as Christians.

We’re nearing the end of our conference. I believe there are only two days left. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori has arrived this afternoon after being at a consecration, and we are glad for her presence. She will be participating in our church service our last day together. Each continent has chosen a different day in which to lead morning and evening prayer. North America is the last day. Canada will do our morning worship, and USA will do the last Eucharist with our Presiding Bishop. Bishop Frank Griswold has asked me to serve communion. I have never ever participated in a church service whatsoever. I’ve never even done a reading. I told him I’ve never done anything in a church service, even a reading. He smiled.  As I walked away a little shaky at the very thought of helping our Presiding Bishop I thought to myself  “I wonder if I’m just going to serve as the token young adult to make our picture look real pretty.” After pondering for a moment I realized this was not in fact the case. I was asked because Bishop Frank believes I can do it. And for me that’s a great way to end our week because in the beginning of choosing delegates for TEAM 2007 I had some other wonderful people (thank you Thom and Douglas) who believed I could do it.

After accepting and then realizing what I might be getting into I wanted to withdraw, and my parish I belong to believed I could do it. Now finally here I am doing it. I say this not as a pat on the back to myself but an example to everyone in the world that if a girl who was atheist most of her life can come to God, serve Jesus, and live into the Holy Spirit in an entirely different country, and in less than three years administering communion next to our new female Presiding Bishop, then the MDG’s, my friends, are indeed just as possible to achieve!

And it’s only been half a day…..

March 11, 2007 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Day 5: Sunday, 11 March 2007, Laura | Leave a comment

This morning was by far my favorite experience. The conference, don’t get me wrong, has been amazing and helping me to grow on my spiritual path. But today was once again the word becoming flesh. A few days ago we all signed up for a parish to visit on Sunday for church. We weren’t really told anything about the church’s other then if they were English or non- English speaking. I signed up for some church and wrote it down on the back of my name tag. However, when I got up this morning I saw Father Michael get on a different bus and after a very quick conversation with God decided to skip out on where I was supposed to be and instead go with him. I like to think of a phrase a good friend and fellow business owners says. “Pray like it’s all up to God, Work like it’s all up to me.” I was not disappointed. As we neared the area where we would be worshiping we started to smell the township. It was not pleasant. Then as we continued to drive we saw why. There were big big piles of garbage on the street corners and some piles were burning to lessen the amount of actual stuff, I assume. The houses we drove past looked like the houses you see on the commercials with  the children living in poverty stricken communities. And unlike the last time we went out into a community there was no warm welcome for us . . . outside that is.

When we got into the church we were greeted with incense, loud singing, clapping, and dancing as if to beat the devil right out of you. It was amazing. They lead us up the isle as the procession and sat us all in the front two pews. (It’s a small church so the pews weren’t long. There were fewer than 15 of us there.) I sat with a friend from the USA, and a priest and bishop from Brazil. (Lucas, that’s your dad, the Primate!) In front of us were two women from the choir and then the rest of our crew. The singing and dancing didn’t stop. The priest of the parish, a large black man who fits every wonderful stereotype of an African-American preacher, greeted us each individually with hugs and kisses. After the songs were done he had each of us announce our names and where we were from. The parish children behind me went crazy when Brazil announced themselves. (Apparently the soccer coach here is Brazilian.) Then the preacher actually asked Father Michael to come up and preach. (Read about Father Michael in my entry from Day 4). They started with a song again and the deacons came down to get him and give incense all over his pathway again. They put up a podium and bible and started cheering. When they got quiet he started. I cannot summarize everything he said, but it was in the top five of my favorite sermons ever. He preached for over an hour and you never would’ve thought it. After he sat down they went right into another song and brought up the bread and wine. The most amazing thing happened then. The priest called up all ordained people from our group (about 10 of us) and then they all laid hands on all the people who were carrying the bread and wine. It was heart breaking and beautiful, I’ll post pictures later. After that was done more singing from these amazing voices who obviously have never had any formal training but were better than American Idol any day of the week. During this song everyone made their way up to the front by rows dancing and putting money in the offering plate. I really must add in here that I cannot describe the atmosphere nearly as touching and lively as it was. So just keep in mind that all the acolytes (all children and young adults girls on the right, boys on the left) and people who could be considered ushers (they brought us drinks in the middle of the service like waiters!) were dancing, laughing, and having the time of their lives. I took many pictures of this as well as the children under 10 sitting behind and at one point with me.

We all took communion while dancing and singing for what could’ve been another half an hour. And much like the sermon words cannot explain what it was like but it was in my top three communion experiences ever. After communion all the children who had eventually made their way outside to play came in droves to the rail. There were no fewer than 30 kids and babes in arms. All the congregation held up our hands and blessed the children, it was the face of God right in front of me, and of course it brought down the house.

The rest of the service continued in what may have been no particular order to wrap up. More dancing, a big circle of women playing hand made instruments, and the men behind them clapping and singing. It seemed even though it certainly was not “orderly,” to flow exactly as everyone there knows it does. We filed out of the church and the kids who were sitting beside me played with me in the dirt for a bit. My favorite little boy no older then 6 was Timba, and he made me want to stay there for a very long time. However, we had to get back on the bus. Now up until this point I had forgotten about wanting to talk with Father Michael. But after we left the township and started to make our way back home I walked up to his seat and tapped him on the shoulder. He invited me to sit next to him and I proceeded to tell him the whole story I posted earlier about thinking he didn’t belong on “our” bus. The emotions he had stirred up in me and questioning how I could call myself a Christian with those thoughts in my head. I told him all about Charlie who he reminds me of back home. And then I just cried in my hands. Have you ever started telling someone something that’s really hard to say, and once you start talking the words won’t stop. It’s almost like an avalanche of language. Well that’s exactly what happened to me. As if it were in a movie when my emotions started running out of my mouth the bus stopped and it was very quite. It was just Father Michael sitting with me, myself crying and telling him how I first saw him, and the entire bus of 15 fellow Anglicans hearing my confession. I knew they were listening, they couldn’t not listen it was so quite except for me. I couldn’t stop talking, believe me a tried. So instead I got it all of my chest made my face a mess with tears and then walked back to the back of the short bus we were on and sat down, looked out the window and cried most of the way home. And that’s it. Anti-climactic at the least. I was even thinking while in the moment, someone else say something . . . Comment on the words I spoke, tell Father Michael how you too felt the same. But nobody did, and that was just fine. I see now why some Catholics enjoy confession. I feel lighter and less guilty overall. But I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of myself trying to decide which way am I falling. That may not sound like a good thing to some, but I assure you it is. Because either way I chose to fall, I’m walking on God’s path.

Gender Equality and Conflict Resolution

March 10, 2007 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Day 4: Saturday, 10 March 2007, Laura | 1 Comment

Gender Equality
AKA Goal #3 was the focus of this morning’s program. I’ve never really invested myself in this goal. It’s my own issues, I know. The very word “feminism” makes me want to puke quite frankly. I have had some experience of people in my life from years ago that made me turn my nose up to the way people (in my experience it was mainly women) talked about feminism. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I’ve had a mental block about it every sense. Today however that block was cleared in my mind, and for that I am grateful. We had a speaker talk about gender equality and what that means to us as Christians engaging in the MDG’s. It was all well and good. And I completely understand how ignorant I am of what women in other cultures have to endure in order to survive in this world. So I listened and appreciated what she had to say. However, the part that really enticed me, where I sat up and thought, “Wait a minute! This makes sense to me” was after her speech when people started to comment on what she had said. And an interesting thing was brought up about Gender Equality: A wise person in the room said, “gender” does not mean “woman.” This began a waterfall of comments based on gender equality being a relationship between men and women.

My new pal Jesse Dymond, a young adult from Canada who has been stalking me due to our shared border (this is a joke if you don’t catch the sarcasm over the internet) made the best point during the discussion in my mind: Not only do we need to be empowering women, we need to educate our men. In my and Jesse’s part of the world, women and men for the most part have the same equal rights and relationships. However, the mentality of men and women has not really changed so much. We need to educate men and women how to raise each other up, support each other, communicate with each other. We do not need women who are upset, angry, and/or mad at the world because they don’t think men treat them equally. We need to teach men how to communicate before violence, how to respect women without pitying them, how to empower women without disempowering men. We need to talk about gender equality including men and women.  We need women who approach such topics with a nurturing and supportive attitude. Who will take steps to acheive educating both sexes on what it means to communicate, what it means to support, and what it means to love one another? Then we need men on the other side of the relationship to engage with women on these things. I’m butchering what Jesse said, but I’m going to try to get him to write a post about it. (For those of you at TEAM reading this, be sure to let him know that the Anglican internet world wants to know more!)

On to Conflict Resolution

Now as if that wasn’t enough for my brain to handle, following lunch I met a man who has started to change my life. As embarrassed as I am to write some of this I am going to pour my heart out in this entry. When I first met him it was on a bus on the way back from our initial Eucharist, I thought to myself “Who let this man on our bus? He obviously does not belong with our group.” I was ashamed immediately and sat directly behind him on the ride back. I asked myself why did I think such a thought. It wasn’t that I didn’t like this man. In fact quite the opposite. He reminded me of a dear friend of mine whom I love back home, Charlie Parr. If I had to be brutally honest and offending I would have to say that the reason I thought such things was because this man had a scraggly sort of beard, one fake eye, things in his ears I assumed to help him hear, and hooks for both hands. I actually thought the man to be homeless when I saw him. I took a picture of him later on because I wanted to show Charlie the picture of this man who reminded me of him. (This man did not know I took his picture, I just sort of did it) So today after lunch we went into general assembly and sure enough there he was, sitting on the speaker row about to present his material.

Some of you may know this man. You may have read books about his story, you may have heard some of the many media things that were done about him. His name is the Rev. Michael Lapsley. He is the executive director for the Institute for Healing of Memories. If you don’t know him, look him up. He is unbelievable:  http://www.healingofmemories.co.za. Not only is he amazing because he is a rights activist who had his hands, eyes, and ears blown apart by a letter bomb in
South Africa after the release of Nelson Mandela, he is amazing because of the way he uses his experience to talk about destructive memories versus redemptive memories. The bible talks about redemptive memories, war and hatred use destructive memories. Redemptive memories have us identify that good that has come out of the bad. Destructive memories are the things grandparents hang onto and teach grandchildren to hate and destroy due to the poision of the memories. He discussed the two steps of changing from distructive to redemptive. Step #1 Acknowledge the wrongdoing. Step #2 Begin the healing. Saying “I’m sorry” is the first step to healing and changing for the positive. There are also two ways an indvidual goes after expereincing a horrific event. They either become victims who become victimizers using their experience to justify the vicimizations (USA’s response to 9-11 he pointed out). Or, the victimized become survivors, then in turn become victors.

He went on to further tell us his story by stating how interesting it is that people always comment to him what a wonderful example of forgiveness he is. When in fact, he never mentions anything about forgiveness in his personal story. You see, Father Michael does know that the bomb was some how politically related. He knows that it was done deliberately towards him. What he does not know is who in fact mailed the bomb. So there is no one person to forgive. However, he did end his story by saying if the bomber were ever to show up on his door step and say “I’m sorry, I’m the person who mailed you the letter bomb, will you forgive me?” Father Michael would first ask if the person is still mailing bombs. Then he would ask what this person is now up to in their life. Perhaps this person is working in a hospital. If this person is working in a hospital then Father Micheal would want him to continue to do so. He would not want the person locked in jail where no good is being done anyway. Father Michael preaches about justice not being in the form of revenge. He went on with this story but no words I could write would do it justice. I will be suffice to say here that if this story intrigues you then ask me about it at a later time when I am better able to formulate words around it.

I want to also add here that besides the obvious, the reason I really love this man is because of the way he talks so openly and honestly about things in the world that he feels are unjust. Particuarly at this conference he mentioned in passing more the once the issue of same-sex love and the hurt relgious leaders are inflicting upon people of same-sex oreintation. Every time he mentioned it the air got thick. As if that weren’t enough he actually went on after he was done telling his story and his thoughts on conflict resolution about the subject. He stated that he really feels the most important part to come out of Lambeth’s last gathering was the resolution to start to listen to gays and lesbians tell thier stories. He openly thanked the Bishops who were supportive of this resolution and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa which has undergone an excellent listening process. He encouraged the Anglican Church to vomit out the poison of the hurt on both sides to one another, and then take the life giving lessons from it. He ended this portion by saying “Let’s create the Anglican Church to be one where people say ‘I’m here because I was not judged and people listend to my story.'” The room was paralyzed for a moment I think in fear that someone on either side was going to lay into this comment. But nobody did. Everyone took a deep breath and nodded. And as if God had planned it himself, the next comment was a man who was very upset and hurt about everything going on between the USA and Iraq, he went on and on about how do we change this, what do we do now, how come all of this has to happen etc., etc., etc.

Father Michael walked up to the microphone, said thanks for the comment, and then in a short sweet sharp sentence said “I think the US in Iraq because of oil” and walked back to his seat. It was the most honest thing I’ve ever seen a presenter do. And probably against social norms, I laughed out loud.

It’s going to be a big day

March 10, 2007 at 6:24 pm | Posted in Day 4: Saturday, 10 March 2007, Laura | Leave a comment

It has been a HUGE day of many different important topics. So I will be posting in segments as my day allows me to digest. So to begin with, at breakfast I sat with two women and a gentleman from Pakistan. There stories touched my heart. They talked with me about being Christian in Pakistan. The minority religions in Pakistan make up 3% of the population. Of that 3%, only 2% are Christian. One woman, Reba, poured her heart out to me about what it’s like living as a fourth generation Christian who’s grandfather was an ordained Anglican priest. She told me horror stories she’s experienced first hand of violence towards her people. Women suicide bombers who’ve attacked the elementary school in her town. Men who attack and kill Christians on the streets for merely drinking out of the same water fountains as the Muslims. Many of you will remember the cartoon that was drawn and published in a very well-known newspaper depicting Muslims in a not-so-respectable manner. She asked me if I remembered this cartoon. I did vaguely. She told me that after this cartoon was published hatred and rage were acted out against her and her family in the most terrifying manners. Listening to her evoked emotions in me that I feel often when reading of such acts, but I’ve never experienced being face-to-face with another human being who’s suffered the consequences. It made me think of our own past in the USA dating back to racial attacks right after slaves were freed. All the way up to our recent history of 9-11 and how our Muslim brothers and sisters were violently accosted, attacked, and even murdered on the soil I call home. It makes me wonder if I am a strong enough Christian that should I be faced with such hatred, if someone were to beat my children or attack my mother because of my religion would I still call myself a Christian? Or would I back down and retreat back into the safety of whatever it is the “norm” would be.

Thankfully bible study was next, and I was excited to get into the church and think a bit more happy thoughts in a loving environment. However, God wasn’t quite finished with me yet. During our breakout group for bible study I sat next to a gentleman from Sudan who at one point in his life was a refugee and atheist. In fact he downright despised anything to do with any sort of God. He told his story to us about leaving his home and cursing the fact that people believed in “God” and this higher power that caused hatred among people with different color skin. And there was no way a God could exist. One night he was very sick and in a room alone with a very sore leg. He said he heard someone call his name three times. He went to the door and nobody was there. As he fell asleep he had a very vivid dream of Jesus standing in front of him smiling and as happy as could be. My new friend woke up feeling wonderful, and began his journey as a changed man. It goes back to what I wrote in my previous entry about not believing that people need to come to Jesus to be a human. People need to find forgiveness in their hearts to be human. I pray that the rest of my day continue to be one of learning stories and hearing how people have been forgiven, and how in the cases of individuals at this conference I’m sure, how their faith has lead them to forgive.

Addition: I am certain after tonight that indeed the people I meet here are a big part of God’s comedy on earth. Eugene Sutton and I had a wonderful conversation that will be nurtured and continue on, I’m sure. And I spoke for over 45 minutes tonight with Bishop Mano Rumalshah of Pakistan (Diocese of Peshawar) himself. I of course started crying when I tried to talk to him. But then we sat down and actually exchanged stories on both sides that were very powerful. And now with both Eugene and Bishop Mano we are woven into one another’s faith journey. It’s a crazy world God has for us here, and we simply get to enjoy the stage he sets for us!

Shameless promotion

March 9, 2007 at 10:39 pm | Posted in Laura, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I promised my friend Eugene (one of the other 5 delegates for TEC) that I would post his email here. It pays to have friends in low places!

My son, Kyle, whom many of you know is a professional poet, will appear on NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday, March 13 – probably in the 8-9am hour.  He is one of the four finalists in a nationwide competition for “best new ideas” sponsored by Microsoft.  Please go to his website, www.mayhempoets.com, and follow the link to vote for him to win the competition.  (And feel free to spread the word!)

Eugene is attending this conference and is missing his son on national television. I thought the least we could do for him as he’s out saving the world is post this site and vote!

 Laura Amendola, delegate from The Episcopal Church

What’s your point?

March 9, 2007 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Day 3: Friday, 9 March 2007, Laura | Leave a comment

I must confess to all of you who are reading this blog. I am not doing it for the benefit really of anyone but myself. I figured if I take time after each day to name my photos, reflect on my day, etc . . . it won’t be so overwhelming to do so when I get back and you all want me to present (HA). Well at least it started out that way. Now all of the sudden I feel as if more people then I will ever know are reading this and support us in our journey of faith, discovery,and relationship building here. Thank you all for the prayers and thoughts. I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude to you all.

So on to the day’s events.
We always as good Anglicans do start the morning off with wine, in communion that is. After Eucharist was Bible study. I decided that my study this morning would be at the local mall that the shuttle takes one to every hour on the half. As I was trying to quietly make my way to the front of this huge resort I ran into none other then our former Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold. He stopped me and asked if I was lost because I was headed the wrong way. I sheepishly said no I was thinking of skipping out on the next piece of our “program.” He then proceeded to ask me if I loved the Bible. I thought to myself “great now I HAVE to go back and study.” I told him that yes I did in fact love the Bible. He replied with “that’s good to know, now if you hurry up you’ll catch Bonnie Anderson and be on the same shuttle!” I had to laugh as he walked away smiling.
After an exciting walk back (Bonnie and I missed the shuttle and got lost), we made it just in time to hear the keynote address on The Millennium Campaign by Salil Shetty, its director, and our new Anglican Observer to the UN, Hellen Wangusa’s response to the address. It was amazing. Salil, the director of the Millennium Campaign started out with some startling stats. To begin with the amount of money we spend on arms in the world is $900 Billion a year. The amount of money it would take to accomplish all MDG’s is about $75 Billion. He then further startled us by telling us these stats did not include the amount of money we’ve spent in Iraq. He also informed us that if we continue at the pace we are now going we will not achieve HALVING poverty and hunger until 2147. So why is this happening? What are some of the issues that are causing our blocks? To begin with our leaders around the world have not been held accountable to the promises that they have made. In part this is because the vast majority of people in the world (namely the USA) are not aware of the MDG campaign and the fact that our leaders have signed their names to do their part monetarily and otherwise. So what do we do with this? We need to get people INVOLVED at the grassroots level. We have the ability to create awareness through our medias and our public platforms we all have. We can campaign to leaders to make policy changes and start keeping their promises. At this point Salil showed an amazing video called the Stand Up Campaign. Words cannot do it justice. Instead, I’m going to make a plea here that if Thom or anyone else at this conference is reading this, is it possible to get that video on this blog as a link? [Editor’s note from Thom: See a Google Earth-enabled photo map of Stand Up event pics at: http://www.standagainstpoverty.org/photos/map, and general information about the Millennium Campaign (the presentation is not online so as not to steal Salil’s thunder) at: http://www.standagainstpoverty.org/photos/map] This campaign and others like it (Such as www.one.org) have had a tremendous response from young people. I’ve spoken many times about this very subject. The few speeches I’ve done about the MDG’s are done often in secular context. I do not exaggerate when I say that at least five people EVERY time I speak, come up and ask for my church’s phone number, address, and/or priests name. This is truly the evangelism tool of my generation. So what is coming up that we can get involved in? There are four things:

  1. in 2007 we will recognize the halfway mark.
  2. G8 Summit in June
  3. 07-07-07 as a rally date and time to show the MDG shadow reports. These are reports that give us very specific info on where we are in our promises to the world.
  4. 10-17-07 Stand Up Campaign part 2. Stand Up And Speak Out.

So Salil ended with a rally cry for all of us from around the world to start pressuring our government to keep their promises. If you are at all driven by this notion, or have connections to people in the political world please please please contact me or someone else who knows how to get you info to talk with our reps about.

Now for Helen’s response.
“It’s comfortable to talk about stats. It’s tough to talk about and to see faces”. Great quote to start with. Then she added some biblical passages to the skeleton. Jesus left his 99 sheep alone to find the 1 sheep that was lost. I feel this directly relates to Rowan’s sermon two days ago. Without every voice in the choir, the music is wrong. She also mentioned the feeding of 5,000. The first response was “send them all home it cannot be done”. That changed into “What do we have? We have bread and wine.” What does the G8 have then? Let’s use our resources. She also spoke to the issue of finding out how to get action on the ground. How do we get the people who we are discussing things about into the discussion? We need to start at a parish (or community) level. She ended with these two things.

A quote from Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyred Roman Catholic archbishop of El Salvador”When I gave food to the hungry I was called a saint. When I asked why they had no food, I was called a communist.” We as Anglicans need to take on this quote as our own battle cry.

She also made the point that we are limited on goals #1-#7 is because we are lacking in goal #8.

Following lunch
We broke into parallel groups that we signed up for on our first day. I signed up for “MDGs 2015: Are we achieving our goals?” This was presented to us (about 20 people) by Namhla Minki – African Monitor. She is heading up the task force that keeps very close tabs on what we are achieving and where we are achieving it in Africa. So in the stats to follow please realize that this is in relation to Africa only. But here is the short answer to the question posed. NO. “But I was born an optimist” So here is where we actually are. Out of 53 countries in Africa these are how many are achieving the goals.

  • Goal #1 (13)
  • Goal #2 (14)
  • Goal #3 (7)
  • Goal #4 (8)
  • Goal #5 (9)
  • Goal #6 (8)
  • Goal #7 (8)

So what can we do? We can mobilize and start implementing action and advocacy at the political level. The MDG’s cannot be accomplished without grassroots. The faith communities are a big part of this movement. And in my opinion the rest of the secular world needs to get on board as well.

So guys, here are some things you can do at home right now to get started.

Join the Millennium Campaign (http://www.millenniumcampaign.org)

Join the Stand Up campaign (http://www.standagainstpoverty.org/)

Write to your local and state representatives to keep their promises.

Get your circles of influence to do the same. Be that church, mosque, temple, family, or co-workers.

I really feel in case you haven’t noticed that .7% is extremely important in the way of monetary donation. However after a statement I heard today I am very much in agreement that political advocacy is where it is going to make the difference. We are fooled (or at least I was) by thinking that if every person, every nation donated .7% then these goals would be achieved. In fact that is not the case. And if you want to delve further I would go so far as to say we as Americans are very good at throwing money at problems just so long as we don’t have to see the problems or be involved in any way shape or form. Other then of course fancy signatures on our checks.

So for those of you out there who are politically involved in some big or small way (you know who you are, and I know you’re reading this!) Be warned I and others like me are going to start holding your feet to the fire. Why not get a leg up on the upcomming elections and beat us voters to the punch. Get involved now, and start creating a movement with us instead of hoping on board when/as it’s convient and helpful for you. And don’t do it for the votes, do it because it’s the right and good thing to do.

As you can see it was a lively and energetic day. There were a lot of things presented to us that were heart breaking. But I really feel that overall the sense here is that the Spirit is moving us towards a direction of the new day. The people who are gathered here are going to change the world. And we need your help. What are you personally going to commit to doing to help us. What are you personally going to get uncomfortable about so we can mend this broken world? How are you personally going to use your .7% of your time/talent and treasure to help achieve these promises to humanity? As we say in Minnesota diocese,” What’s Your Point?”

Laura Amendola, delegate from The Episcopal Church

Setting the tone for the rest of the week

March 8, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Day 2: Thursday, 8 March 2007, Laura | 5 Comments

It’s an interesting thing, time zones. I am one of those people who when I’m tired I say really weird things and usually mix up some vowels or consonants while I’m at it. Take for example the amazing opportunity I had when I found Rowan Williams himself alone on a stoop here at the conference center. I went up sat with him and we had a brief conversation. It went something like this:

Rowan: Hello Laura what did you think of this morning? (He gave a speech as did the Archbishop of Cape Town, and yes he remembered my name from signing my book earlier)
Me: Oh it was pretty good. I feel asleep at the end of your talk but I’m sure it was great.
** awkward silence **
Me again: So do you travel a lot?
Rowan: Yes.
Me: Good then you’ll understand that I have jet lag . . .
Rowan: Yes of course.
** his assistant comes to usher him off **

I literally sat on the stoop watched him walk away and laughed to myself wishing that Sara McGinley were a fly on the wall. She’d have enjoyed the sheer hilarity of the short conversation where I could’ve really made a lasting impression on a powerful religious leader and instead I promptly inserted my foot in my mouth.

So with that said here is my rundown on the rest of the day. It’s a bit lengthy but there were a lot of big topics discussed. The Archbishop of Cape Town gave a speech and talked about the opportunity we have here to rally around and position ourselves in the Global Agenda of things that unite us. He spoke about our mission to be agents of transformation in the Anglican Communion. The church is at a brink where we will really be creating who we are, or are not, as a credible voice in the MDG’s. He closed with a wonderful paragraph about why we are meeting. It went something like this: We are meeting because God’s children are crying out to him. And we know our God hears and our God acts. Most important, who God chooses to carry out his mission, he directs and equips. It was very inspiring and fueling for the people in the room to hear.

After break the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a wonderful and long speech himself. He talked about this conference being monumental and this being our chance to make our own input into the history of our Church. He talked a lot (or maybe it was just the part I really heard) about I Corinthians 12:26. (Clergy and the like correct me if that is wrong!) Summarized it is this, if one part of the body suffers the whole body suffers. That really hit home for me. This is why I think I am so passionate about the MDG’s. Our whole body of humanity is suffering because parts of our humanity are suffering. There are no gated communities in the kingdom of heaven. He also went on to speak about ALL people gathering so as to be fed. I understand that we are at a Christian conference. I know that we are doing the work of “our Saviour Jesus Christ” but personally I am very cognisant of our brothers and sisters of humanity who are not Christian. And I love hearing Christian leaders address the fact that not all of our family is Christian. The ABC addressed it in this way. We do not know where people are in their journey of life. We do not know where they are headed either. It is not up to us to decide if they will come to the table of communion or not. That alone is for them and God to work out. So we need to be mindful of ALL of our neighbors. And ask ourselves, “how may I be part of Christs feeding of them?” For me, given the context we are gathered in, this was enough to be grateful for.

He also addressed an issue that I face often with the MDG discussions I have. Our minds are seduced by the global thought “If I can’t save them all, why save any?” People ask me all the time what difference does it make if they throw a pebble in the ocean. The problem is so big it won’t make a difference. Now I have a few things to say to the nay-sayers. First of all the biblical route. How many of you know the passage where the beggar woman throws one small coin to the offering plate. Jesus comments that she has given more then any of the others. She’s done what she could – she’s made the difference she can make. I think that sums up very well what the “do-gooders” of mankind believe in, and that’s what keeps us fighting the good fight. We are making the difference we CAN make. I also had a conversation with a woman today at breakfast, who funny enough is also from Minnesota (oh boy, I hope her name is Margaret, I’ve forgotten!!) She told me about a study she is doing in her parish in Minneapolis. It is based on the 100th monkey theory. From what I understood and took from it is this. There was a study done on monkeys on an island. The study was conducted with bananas being thrown on the beach for the monkeys to eat. After a while one of the monkeys started washing her banana in the ocean. Soon all the monkeys on the island were washing the banana’s. And soon after that all the monkey’s on the surrounding islands were washing they’re bananas. So in theory, one person (or monkey) who starts to advocate and implement change begins that ripple effect and the ripples soon become tidal waves. Eventually it is as if the banana has always been washed. What a wonderful vision for people on the ground level fighting for Peace, Justice, and Equality for all humanity.

After lunch we had an amazing panel discussion. Malaria and Nets for Life, or the Roll Back Malaria project were discussed. And most powerful for me today was what Bishop Mano Rumalshah (Diocese of Peshawar in the Church of Pakistan) had to say. His platform was on Prophetic Witness and Service in the Islamic land. He told some amazing stories that began with the weekend after 9-11 after having coffee with Bishop Frank Griswold. It eventually led into a story about Episcopal Relief and Development being on the ground in his diocese days after the Tsunami hit. He witnessed a teenage boy who was of a very fundamentalist militant family and community. The boy actually tapped someone from ERD on the shoulder during the disaster relief efforts. He said that nobody would help his people. They were hurt and nobody would help them. ERD and the Christian community helped. They helped their worst enemies in their most desperate hour. In the weeks following those events the community of the fundamental militants held a worship service. After the service all 300 men in attendance made a point to hug, not shake hands with, but HUG Bishop Mano. The Bishop wears the cross today that he wore the day he hugged 300 fundamental militants. He ended with two prominent points. First this. There are two types of practices to which the same ultimate goal of “our own personal reconciliation of relationships with our higher power” is achieved. There is Osama Bin Laden, and there is Mother Teresa. Who’s path do we want to take? His ending statement shook the energy of the conference center. He said one day President Bush will have to hug Osama Bin Laden. And once again I cried.

So to sum it all up I would have to say I am so encouraged by and in love with this communion. We are doing so much in the world, and trying so hard to continue in God’s mission. The Anglican Communion IS in fact ALIVE and WELL!!!

The delegation met tonight briefly after dinner. Everyone was all smiles and ecstatic that we are not in our home country but here on the amazing continent that really truly breaths into making space for discussions, laughing when things go haywire (like the lights in the conference center), and overall enjoying one another’s company. The Holy Spirit is here working in the most amusing and light hearted way. Which is fascinating to me considering the context of our gathering. But I am reminded of a quote from the Archbishop of Cape Town today: He said the Word did NOT become Text. The Word became FLESH! So here we are living as the word of God!!

The parade that moved me to tears

March 7, 2007 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Day 1: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, Laura | 3 Comments

Wow, where to begin? It was quite an afternoon. After some walking around in the sun and meeting new people from literally around the world (I met an awesome man from Malawi, and now I want to go there soooo bad!) we continued on with a Eucharist in a local parish with the people I mentioned in the above post. We took a bus ride that lasted about 40 minutes and arrived in what appeared to be a run down lower income community. There were chickens in the yard pecking at the ground, and small shops selling little trinkets on the sidewalks. It was a different experience to drive into. However, all of the sudden people were dancing. And I mean DANCING. Flags were waving that had the HOPE Africa logos on them and people were singing, waving, dancing, and shouting with joy at us. We were three buses of Anglicans coming to worship in this tiny town. And the whole town showed up. They lined the streets to welcome us. We stepped out of the bus and there was a parade there to lead us to our entrance. I broke into tears in about two seconds. There were two live bands of young adults playing their hearts out, and children were running up to us and hugging us. I got so many pictures (be sure to check out the flickr link on the sidebar when it’s up and running). The service was exactly how I expected it. Very lively with so much amazing singing and dancing, all the pomp and circumstance that we Anglicans love. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave the sermon and it was very nice. (If you want to know more about the sermon, feel free to ask. I just don’t want to go on about it here since it wasn’t a really moving or big part of my experience, but it was very interesting and thought provoking in an unusual sort of way).

It was not what I expected when I was able to take communion from Bishop Williams. I sat back down with Bishop Jim and said, “well I thought that experience would be more touching. But really, I’d rather take communion from Howard Anderson.” I think Rowan was tired and sort of just going through the motions. All though I did get to talk to him at dinner, I sat right behind him in a tiny little parish hall that sat 100 people. He said to me “Minnesota huh? The land of Garrison Keillor!” I had to laugh.
So as I sit here reflecting on my day I’m not even sure what to write in the way of lessons I’ve learned in the past few hours. The world is a small small place, but I knew that all ready. I kind of figured this amazing continent would have abundant love. From all of the stories I’ve heard it has been of nothing but the welcoming faces South Africa has to offer. The stories are all true. And if I really dig deep down and meditate on what I’ve learned today I guess it would be this: We are all part of God’s choir. Sometimes though we ourselves sing a little too loud. Tonight Bishop Williams spoke about God knowing every voice in the choir. That prompted me to be quiet and just listen when singing the familiar hymns. And though the language was often different it was without a doubt the same song. And the voices of the whole Anglican communion made the most beautiful choir I’ve ever heard. So goes my mission for the week. I will continue to not always sing, but also to listen and be moved.

Arrival Day

March 7, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Posted in Day 1: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, Laura | 3 Comments

Well guys here I am. almost 40 hours after I started my travels I have arrived in Boksburg. As of this posting I have even gotten a full 6 hours of sleep, a shower, and I’ve brushed my teeth! Needless to say all is well. It’s about 1pm here and we are just getting ready for lunch. From the looks of breakfast the last thing I have to worry about here is going hungry. It is unbelievable. The food, the ethnicity of the people I am eating with, and the gathering of people from around the world who all share in the same mission. I am humbled and I am honored. I cannot wait to get things started. Today we are heading to a local church to celebrate communion with The Most Reverend Njongonkulu Winston Hugh Ndungane (the Archbishop of Cape Town), The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr. Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury), The Right Reverend David Beetge (Diocese of Highveld), and The Reverend Canon Nangula Kathindi (Anglican Church of Southern Africa). I know those names don’t mean a lot to many people but I’m feeling assured that this Eucharist will be breathtaking as well as be the beginning of my life changed.

I’ll be sure to start taking pictures to keep with my posts. The scenery here is second to none.  The air is fresh, the ground is lit up with all sorts of colors, and the sun is shining for the first time in months on my bare arms. Praise be to God!!!!

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