"Act generously, boldly": A message from Bishop Harris on Haiti & Afghanistan response

Aug. 24, 2021

Jesus said, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe."

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life." --John 6

Last Sunday, as Tropical Storm Henri battered our sister dioceses of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, I was sitting out the storm at St. Barnabas's Church in Falmouth following a regional Confirmation service there the day before. The Gospel lesson (above) was read, and in his sermon the rector, the Rev. Will Mebane, relating the Gospel to current issues, said:

The one-two punch of a devastating earthquake and deadly tropical storm has not been enough to move the hearts of some to care about our neighbors in Haiti. As a member of my prayer group stated, "Haiti can't seem to catch a break!" Once again women, children and men are not only left homeless but without food and drinking water.

Jesus says, give drink to the thirsty, feed the hungry, care for the sick and injured. That, for some, even some that call themselves Christians, is too much to ask. They would prefer to turn away rather than send a donation to Episcopal Relief & Development or another organization responding to the call of Jesus to care for our neighbors.

Who among us has not felt a pit in our stomachs as we have watched events in Afghanistan unfold this past week? The tears streaming down the faces of men desperate to escape possible beheadings and torture for assisting the United States in its 20-year war have on occasion been too much for me to bear. Anguished mothers and fathers pleading for their children, including infants, to be lifted over fences surrounding the only relative haven of safety existing in Afghanistan leave me with lumps in my throat that choke off oxygen.

There are those that turn away from the command of Jesus that we welcome the stranger, preferring again to believe the lies that these women, children and men should be left behind because they are a threat to our security. As Brother James Koester, SSJE wrote, "To be a Christian in our culture is no easy thing, because it demands of us to live in faith, instead of fear; to live in hope, instead of despair; to live in love, instead of enmity."

As Christians, we are called by the Scriptures and our baptism to care for one another and to provide for those in need. Over and over again Jesus' words call us to act generously, and boldly from our faith to alleviate suffering. Jesus' familiar Parable of the Good Samaritan carries one of the many mandates he gives us and demands us to emulate in our times. To be a Christian is to turn to Christ, particularly when it is difficult, rather than to turn away in apathy because it is hard to answer the call to be a Good Samaritan in our own day: to live in faith, and to give hope and love to others.

I ask you to keep open your hearts to those who are suffering in despair and in crisis in both Haiti (our largest diocese in The Episcopal Church) and Afghanistan. Much will be demanded from us as Christians and as a country to respond and to receive refugees and asylum seekers.

I ask you to pray for them and those working to give aid through governmental and nongovernmental organizations. And I especially plead that you give of yourself through donations to Episcopal Relief & Development, our church's worldwide relief agency: www.episcopalrelief.org.

Below are links for information to assist in the response to these crises in Haiti and Afghanistan, as well as prayers from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry.

May we all respond as Christ wants us to, and demands we do.

Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris, Bishop Suffragan

Prayers from Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry

For Haiti

Eternal God, send forth your Spirit to encourage and strengthen the people of Haiti in these difficult times. We pray especially for those impacted by the recent earthquake. Encourage and strengthen those who help and support others. In your mercy, receive the souls of those who have died; comfort their families and loved ones. Surround with your presence the sick and suffering. Aid the work of those who still search and rescue. Empower the medical and aid workers and all who labor to heal.

For the people of Afghanistan

Eternal God, hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. There is a profound humanitarian crisis. Countless people, mostly women and children, are now fleeing and vulnerable. The lives of many are now endangered. The hopes of many are forgone. Send your Spirit, Lord, to rally the resolve of the nations of the earth to find pathways to save human lives, protect human rights and to resolve the hardships of those seeking refuge, asylum and safety. Hear our prayer for the peoples of Afghanistan. This we pray as followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Other resources for response

Episcopal Migration Ministries

Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

Pair Project

World Relief

Refugee Immigration Ministry

Diocese of Massachusetts Office of Immigration and Multicultural Ministries: The Rev. Canon Jean Baptiste Ntagengwa (jbntagengwa@diomass.org) is able to provide limited legal services, including initial consultation, help to file address changes and status adjustments, representation at USCIS interviews, Non-Immigrant Religious Visa (R-1), Temporary Protected Status (TPS), applications for naturalization and certificate of citizenship.

Compline marking 20th anniversary of 9/11

The Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston invites everyone to join together for a special Compline service on Zoom at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10, the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.  The Rev. Stephen Harding, Rector of Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, who served as a chaplain at Ground Zero and with the NYFD, will give a homily, and special prayers and music will be offered. Register here. (Please note that this service is at 7 p.m., even though the registration page may temporarily list a later time.)