A Letter from the Bishops of Province III of the Episcopal Church

June 4, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

It has now been over a week since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

We have seen this before. And, as leaders in a predominantly white denomination, our responses are all too familiar.

We write letters and make public statements. We hold vigils and pray for reform. We urge our clergy and people to become better educated concerning the realities of institutional racism and implicit bias. We reach out to black community leaders and express our sorrow and our solidarity.

Then, gradually, we get busy with other things, until the next murder, the next video, the next spasm of racial violence, when we repeat the cycle.

And nothing changes.

We are heartbroken and angered by this pattern, by our complicity in it, above all by the thought that we might let this moment pass us by without responding with vigor, zeal and persistence to its challenge.

We are determined, with God’s help, not to let this happen again. And yet, we need the participation of our communities in Christ to join in the movement of transforming our society with its sinful way of oppression, into Jesus’ loving, liberating and life-giving Way of Love. Our baptismal promises compel us to act.

As bishops of Province III of the Episcopal Church, we resolve:

To seek, first, the guidance and wisdom of people of color as we look for ways to dismantle racism in our dioceses.

To formulate a plan, each in our context, to build relationships with leaders in the black community offering our support, committing to partnership, and working together to address racial injustice in our localities.

To offer ongoing support to leaders in communities of color, local politicians and local law enforcement, in building a healthy culture in our police departments, ensuring safety for all our citizens and fostering trust between police and people in all our neighborhoods.

To name the reality of systemic racism in our own dioceses and local contexts, and to recognize and address the white privilege imbedded in our Episcopal Church culture.

To be fervent in prayer for the coming of the day when all of God’s children are free.

In all of this, we pledge ourselves to the work of overcoming the sin of racism.We ask for the prayers of our fellow bishops, and of all the people of God, that this resolve may remain strong for as long as it takes to bear fruit. May God help us all.

Faithfully in Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Mark Bourlakas
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia

The Rt. Rev. W. Michie Klusmeyer
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Brooke-Davidson
Assistant Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

The Rt. Rev. Chilton Knusden
Assisting Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Washington

The Rt. Rev. Kevin S. Brown
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Delaware

The Rt. Rev. Santosh K. Marray
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Easton

The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

The Rt. Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez
Bishop
The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

The Rt. Rev. Kevin Nichols
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem

The Rt. Rev. Susan B. Haynes
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia

The Rt. Rev. Sean Rowe
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania

The Rt. Rev. Robert W. Ilhoff
Assisting Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Bishop
Episcopal Diocese of Maryland

A Virtual Prayer Vigil for Justice, Reconciliation, and Peace

Saturday, June 6, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Dear Friends in Christ,
When people of faith are thrown into the wilderness of hurt, fear, anger and pain, one of our first impulses is to pray. Our biblical witness is full of the cries of God’s people, some of them quite eloquent, some little more than inarticulate screams from the heart.

God, help us!
How long, O Lord?
Answer me when I call, O God!
Give ear to my cry, O Lord!

We pray because God puts it into our hearts to do so. God desires to be in deep communion with us, and prayer builds that communion. Prayer draws us close to the beating heart of God.

We pray because we have seen and experienced that prayer is concrete action for the sake of the world. God hears our prayers, and God answers. Our words do not return to us empty, but prepare a way for God to do in the world all that God intends.

We pray because at times we can do no other.

We pray knowing that it is risky to pray. God may well answer our prayer by sending us out to be what we want to see in the world. God may well choose to change us and use us according to the prayers we have uttered.

We take the marvelous risk of praying for justice in our world now, opening ourselves to God for the sake of a world so in need of God’s presence, God’s love, God’s transforming power.

I am grateful to the community of Deacons in the Diocese of Virginia for calling us to this 12 Hour Virtual Prayer Vigil for Justice, Reconciliation and Peace. It is part of the role of a Deacon in worship to call God’s people to prayer, and our Deacons are faithful in calling us from our individual congregations to a wider community of prayer together.

There are a variety of ways to participate in the vigil:

    • You may sign up for 30-minute prayer slots. There is no limit to how many people can sign up for a single time slot. The more people praying together, the better!
    • You can set a time to pray alone or with members of your household.
    • You can host an online prayer vigil for your small group, congregation or faith community.
    • You can tune in to the prayer time live on the Diocese of Virginia’s Facebook page Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

The diocesan Deacons have composed this prayer booklet for use as a resource during the vigil. Use whatever is helpful to you. Add a song as you are called. Read some of the Psalms, which are quintessential cries of the heart. Follow the ways that God is leading you.

May God’s blessing fall richly upon you as you share in this time of vigil. May God bless us all as God works in and through us in the power of prayer.

Your sister in Christ,


The Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority

St. Alban’s response to the COVID-19 virus pandemic

Dear St. Alban’s Family,

Join us on Sundays at 10am as we livestream Morning Prayer via YouTube. Access the livestream and archived video recordings here.
Weekdays at 8am we offer Morning Prayer via Zoom online conferencing. Click here for access details and link.
Check your email! We are sending regular updates and messages, including scheduled Zoom social events for our church family. If you’re not on our email list, please contact us and request to be added.

I hope you have seen the pastoral letter recently sent out from Bishop Goff in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the letter, Bishop Goff relates that she met online with the clergy of the Diocese of Virginia and, as the Ecclesiastical Authority, directed that there will be no public worship at churches in the Diocese of Virginia through March 25. If you are aware of someone who might not have received her email, please pass it on to them.

Bishop Goff made it very clear that churches are, at the moment, not closing, and staff will be reporting for work. What does that mean for our parish family?

While Bishop Goff mentions “physically gathering for public worship,” I take her directive to mean that, in addition to our Sunday worship, there will be no church sponsored, or church-sanctioned, gatherings. This includes choir rehearsals, Lenten programming, Education for Ministry (EfM) sessions, Tuesday Eucharist and Bible Study, Chatting Fingers, Sunday School, Youth Group gatherings, Vestry and any of the other varied ways we gather.

While the doors will be closed for public gatherings and worship, we plan to continue live-streaming our daily office of Morning Prayer from the downstairs chapel, and are making plans to provide some kind of livestream of worship (either Morning Prayer or Eucharist) on the two Sundays we are apart. We will be reaching out to those we are aware of who live alone, to check in and make sure everyone is OK.

I hope you will take advantage of the technology with which God has enriched our lives to stay connected through our online worship and to stay connected with each other – checking on friends, neighbors, fellow parishioners and the most vulnerable among us.

I am grateful for Bishop Susan and Bishop Jennifer’s leadership in this difficult and challenging time. While we might be inconvenienced in the short term, not gathering in numbers helps to mitigate the spread for the community-at-large. In our conference call it was clear that this was a tough decision for them to make, but it was the right decision to make.

During this two week period, please do not hesitate to reach out to your parish staff and clergy if you are in any need, are feeling anxious, frightened or need someone to talk to. As Bishop Goff said in her pastoral letter, “do not be afraid. God is good.” Hold each other up in prayer. Now, as always, God is with us.

Faithfully,

Fr. Jeff

Bishop’s Reflection on Abortion & Women’s Health

On May 21, Bishop Susan Goff released a reflection on abortion and women’s reproductive health. It is reprinted below:
Diocese Coat of ArmsWith renewed national attention to issues of abortion and women’s reproductive health in recent weeks, I’ve been asked by people from across our Diocese about the position of The Episcopal Church on these matters. I write this reflection in response to those questions and in hope that it will be helpful as we think, pray and act as individuals and as a Church community.

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” John 13:34

These words from the Gospel reading for the Fifth Sunday of Easter shape our most basic motivations as Christians. Following Jesus’ commandment to love one another animates who we are and what we do. Our commitment to love stands front and center as we hear and respond to recent legislation about abortion, reproduction and women’s health in our highly politicized era.

The Episcopal Church has held our arms of love wide open across the decades in the midst of political and moral debate about these matters. We assert without equivocation the sanctity of human life. “All human life is sacred,” we affirmed at the 69th General Convention in 1988. “Hence, it is sacred from its inception until death. Human life, therefore, should be initiated only advisedly and in full accord with this understanding of the power to conceive and give birth which is bestowed by God.”

In a series of statements over the decades we as a Church have fleshed out our understanding of the sacredness of human life, the lives of women as well as the lives of the unborn. We have declared “that we emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.” We have also declared our “unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions [about the termination of pregnancy] and act on them.”

At our most recent General Convention last summer we resolved that “equitable access to women’s health care, including women’s reproductive health care, is an integral part of a woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being.” A complete summary of General Convention resolutions on abortion and women’s reproductive health can be found here.

Our statements about abortion and women’s reproductive health are bound together by our unshakable affirmation that all life is sacred and all human beings are worthy of abiding love. As a woman, as a child of God and as a bishop, I hold my own arms wide open in love to support women in making informed decisions about their bodies and their reproductive health. I reach out with pastoral care toward those women who chose to end a pregnancy and to those who choose to give birth in difficult circumstances. I call on our legislatures to provide access to adequate health care, education, safety and freedom from violence for all who are born. While honoring the sanctity of life for all people and upholding our Church’s teachings about the seriousness and “tragic dimension” of abortion, I will do what I can to keep our society from returning to an era of backroom abortions in which the lives and health of women are threatened. With arms held wide open in love, we can reach out to people on the many different sides of these issues without becoming polarized. God bless us all as we navigate these waters in the love of Christ Jesus.

The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff
Bishop Suffragan and Ecclesiastical Authority
Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

Delegates for the Diocese

Every March the Vestry elects two delegates to represent St. Alban’s at Diocesan Convention.

Diocesan Convention, held in January, is responsible for the “order, government and discipline” of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia. It’s a rich opportunity to meet other Episcopalians from around the diocese, and a wonderful opportunity to see the greater Church in action.

In order to be considered by the Vestry for this position, delegates to Convention must be adult confirmed communicants in good standing.

If you would like to be considered for the role of delegate representing St. Alban’s, please contact your vestry representative (or any member of the vestry), or see Father Jeff.