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We Share a Call to be Disciples

On January 26 at St. John’s Cathedral in Belize City, Bishops Mark Hollingsworth and Philip Wright signed an agreement continuing the relationship, which began in 2011, between the Diocese of Ohio and the Diocese of Belize. The agreement includes these words: We share common concerns and goals, for example, in encouraging vocations to ministry, in ministering to and engaging with young people, and in actively carrying forward ministry and mission in our respective settings.

As we work locally, we will also seek to share with our Companion Diocese the resources that we develop and the skills we acquire in Christian ministry and mission. These resources may be best practices we have acquired and tested, materials such as Lent and Advent devotions, and programs for areas such as laity training and Bible study.

The agreement was the expression of continuing the relationship of our two Dioceses and the culmination of a week of joint mission and conversation. The Commission on Global and Domestic Mission (CGDM) coordinates the activities for mission and ministry outside the Diocese and has been intentional about engaging in true partnership. In addition to the Bishop, participants from Ohio were: the Rev. David Kendall-Sperry, St. Paul, Mount Vernon and Chair of the Belize Subcommittee of CGDM; Barbara Jones, St. James, Boardman and President of the Episcopal Church Women (ECW); Linda Heitger, New Life, Uniontown and Lay Staff of Happening; and the Rev. Beth Frank, St. Andrew, Toldeo and Chair of CGDM. This trip overlapped with a visit by Dr. Matthew Teare (St. Luke’s, Chardon) and David Marcrum (Belize Professional Pen Pal) to do follow-up training and evaluation of teachers in Project Science Success and to plan a pilot summer science camp.

The trip was framed by worship and fellowship. There was nightly compline, Eucharist Tuesday morning and Thursday evening, dinners together, and visits to various ministries. Both Dioceses assisted in the feeding program at the Cathedral, serving 200 bowls of soup with bread or rice to those in need. “This was not a cold assembly line, rather a spirited collaboration; bowls were filled with love and prayers as well as soup, rice, and bread,” said the Rev. Beth Frank.

The delegation visited Clothesline, modeled on the one at St. Timothy’s, Perrysburg. The shop and storage area was hit hard by Hurricane Earl in August, claiming most of the inventory. A shipment from the ECW in December has helped restock the racks and provide footwear. Everyone has been overwhelmed by the participation in the medicine bottle collection spearheaded by the ECW. (Rural clinics have medicine to distribute but a shortage of containers to keep it safe and dry.)

The visit included planning of new youth initiatives. Two people from Belize will come to Happening at St. Paul’s, Medina in March. The next step is to develop Happening in Belize in 2018. Two young people from Belize will also join two young people from Tanga as part of our delegation to the Episcopal Youth Event in July in Edmond, Oklahoma. These youth programs build on relationships established by a joint delegation at the Global Episcopal Mission Network conference in May of 2016.

Commenting on his experience of the trip, Bishop Hollingsworth said, “It was evident to Bishop Wright and to me that the participants on this planning trip worked effectively and productively in setting new goals for our companion relationship and devising strategies to meet them. The concluding worship service at St. John’s Cathedral was marked by a spirit of collaboration, expectation and gratitude.”

One of the guiding principles of our work together is “linear mission,” which emphasizes building deep relationships, sustaining one another in prayer, working in small flexible teams, and launching streams of mission which allow for collaborative development of projects through Spirit-guided steps. This approach helps us remember that God and our Dioceses send us to cross boundaries of difference to live out our baptismal vow to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” Through linear mission, all participants are transformed. They see themselves and their companions in new light and participate in the Church’s mission of reconciliation “restoring all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

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