Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Roof.

I know I have seen this ledge before
and the voice of the Beloved calls out.
Does she scream out
weeping at arms length 
from the middle
 of the plane?
Or does she pull in close,
her toes aligned with mine
upon the narrow edge?
Does she wrap me in a tight embrace,
so close to whiff the busyness on my breath
and mourn warm tears upon my stammering lips?
-Charles Graves IV

The table at which I sat and prayed, writing the poem above.
I sat down, some days ago to talk, or more honestly to complain, about how I've found myself being pulled, or perhaps pulling myself, in so many different directions as of late. The kind sister from a local convent with whom I was meeting, after a long pause, quoted this line from the great poet Rumi.

 “Sit, be still, and listen,

because you're drunk
and we're at
the edge of the roof.”

That line has returned to my head frequently these last several days, and if I am honest, it's for good reason. It inspired me a few days later to write the poem at the beginning of this post. What is it to be busy-drunk? What is it to abuse the substance of ourselves - of myself - not with a bottle or a weapon but with a calendar, beyond a point that could truly be called "sobriety"? can one be drunk on serving God? Does ministry contain some toxin that causes one to stagger on the metaphorical rooftop ledge? 

If I'm honest with myself - If I am honest with God - the answer on some days is clear. I am blessed overwhelmingly, immeasurably, to love so many things. I have a workplace and a position that I truly enjoy, that brims with opportunities to serve God in the world around me. And I am blessed with great flexibility, with incredible friends with whom to relax, with a marvelous loving family, with the care of a brilliant spiritual director, and countless resources to keep me wisely on an even keel. All told, the state of my spiritual union is very strong.

But in the boundless world of ministry, there is always the siren call of just one more thing. One more activity, one more meeting, one more project, one more hour, one more day. Likewise for clergy and lay, for ministers and for ministers. "Boundaries" we say time and again "are essential". The saying is true, but it's much more than simple boundaries. It's the art of slowing down, of learning to "be" rather than always to "do". It's the anonymous prayer that hangs on my wall since my first year of seminary:
Slow me down Lord,
Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.

Steady my hurried pace
with a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amid the confusion of the day,
the calmness of the everlasting hills.

Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical
restoring power of sleep. 

Teach me the art 
of taking minute vacations - 
of slowing down to look at a flower
to chat with a friend
to pat a dog
to read a few lines from a good book.

Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me 
to send my roots deep into the soil
of life's enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars

of my greater destiny. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Year in Review - Sneak Preview

In the six weeks since my return to the United States, dozens of people have asked about my experiences as a missionary in the Eternal City. So I've decided to write up one more magazine, based on the Letters from St. Paul's magazine that I helped to edit while in Rome, to share some of the most remarkable stories and changes of that incredible year abroad. Within a few weeks and with a few edits, it will be published for distribution. But in the meantime, take a look at this sneak preview here, and enjoy!

Dear Charles... One Year Later

Leaving New York for Rome!
September 15, 2015
After a roughly six-week hiatus for a bit of late-summer vacation and readjustment, this blog, Cornelius the Roman proudly continues! At the beginning of August I quietly returned to the United States to spend a few weeks of rest with my dear friends and loved ones in Maryland. Toward the end of the month, I joyfully returned to Cincinnati where I expect to live year-round, at least for the next few years. Upon returning, I proudly accepted a new position as the Brendan’s Crossing Fellow at Christ Church Cathedral for a term of one year. In this role I will coordinate and serve many of the Cathedral’s outreach efforts among diverse constituencies including downtown corporate employees, homeless persons, Latino/Hispanic immigrants and other communities.

On the day of this writing I also celebrate another very special occasion – the one year anniversary of my arrival as a missionary in Rome! What follows are my reflections from that day, including my response to the letter I wrote to my future self at the beginning of that great  adventure.

September 15, 2016

One year ago today, at 4:10pm I boarded a plane bound for another life. Standing with my fellow missionary and traveling partner Paola Sanchez by my side, not to mention a probably obscene amount of luggage and our tickets & passports in hand, off we decamped for an adventure like no other.

Very early the next morning, we landed in Rome, carrying boundless excitement, healthy amount of anxiety and probably just the right amount of abject terror for whatever might lay ahead. I had only a vague idea what might happen in the day ahead. There we met the inimitable Rev. Austin Rios, who would be our boss, advisor and friend over the coming year. Having shared our first official Italian coffee in the airport together, we happily rode with Fr. Austin to St. Paul’s Within the Walls – our new home, workplace and the center of our universe for the next small chapter of our lives.

Soon after arriving to be greeted joyfully by our new co-workers and housemates, I sat down at my new desk with a lovely scenic view of the Irish Pub across the street and penned this letter to myself. As you might know, it stems from a personal tradition of mine at every major transition point in life (which seems to be almost every year now) that is also commonplace at several schools and institutions I’ve taken part in along the way. This is, I think, my fourth letter to myself, following up those I scribbled at the beginnings of high school, undergrad and seminary.

Dear Charles,
When you read this letter around this time next year, you will have experienced things you could not have imagined when you wrote it today. God Willing, you will have learned a new language (or two or three!!) and will be comfortably walking the streets & making conversation in Italian, and maybe Spanish too! Even more important, I pray that the people you have known here will have inspired you deeply. May those experiences and relationships, joys and pains challenge you to be a stronger and more loving minister of the Gospel. You will return, God Willing, with new stories more than you can count. May they make you a wiser, more humble, and more mature servant of God & God’s People. May you look back and remember the day you wrote this letter and may it cause you to smile from ear to ear. This year that now seems so long, will have flown by in your memory like a thief in the night. I pray that you have treasured every moment. May every single memory be more valuable than gold to you. And may you never forget all that you have learned here, nor neglect all that others have learned –and are learning – from you.

Our very first photo after arriving in Rome & meeting Fr. Austin!
September 16th, 2016!
Remember, Charles, what it was like when you first arrived in this beautiful City. Recall the heady mix – equal parts steely confidence and abject trepidation in anticipation of the road ahead. Recall that constantly vacillating sensation, drifting minute-for-minute between “yeah, I can totally do this” and “what the heck am I doing here!?!?”. Remember what it was like when everything – every single thing – was new and alive with mystery. Hold onto those sensations day by day. Tie them to yourself like a string around your finger or a belt around your waist. Keep it before you or it will vanish like a vapor from your sight. Be open, as you were then, and hopefully even more so, to whatever God has in store.

And finally, fair self, hopefully feeling as poetic and self –satisfied as you were when you wrote this letter, pray without ceasing. Be always, ALWAYS, a person of devoted and constant prayer. Pray for everyone and everything as if the whole world depends on it. It does. Honor those whose sacrifices sent you here. They are like the angels of heaven. Honor God in all that you do, and let your every act be prayer.

By the way, When you read this, the nominees for president & vice president will be **___/__ ** and ** ___/__ **. When it happens, feel free to say “I told you so” 

With love from your not too distant past
Charles Cornelius Graves IV

P.s. (For those reading this letter other than yours truly, the presidential nominee thing is a running joke. I wrote a letter to myself when I started high school in 2004 that I read in 2008, where I said I hoped that the older me would be ready to “re-elect President John Kerry”. If you really want to know my predictions, ask me!)

September 16, 2016
Dear Charles of September 2015,

You were more right than you could have known (and well, half-right about the political predictions!)

On your last day at St. Paul’s, the parish administrator said of you to an Italian-speaking member of the congregation Lui ha cresciuto molto – “he has grown a lot”. It really got me thinking – somehow it can be so easy to forget how much you really have been changed, in altogether positive ways, by the experiences of this marvelous year. There are uthe things you have learned and the ways in which yoi have changed, some external and others internal, making something of a whole patchwork that lies sometimes under the surface.

Some of the best co-workers a guy could ask for!
There are the more obvious matters of course – although certainly not insignificant. You have learned a thing or two about living abroad, absorbing new cultures while holding onto intersecting cultures of your own. Yet your American ex-pat privilege could never compare to the stateless and often oppressed refugees whom you met each day. They taught you most about what it means to be an American, and an ex-pat, and a citizen of the world. Likewise living in community, inside the church building among several young adults growing in our varied ministries in the Church, your introverted tendencies were challenged by the broadness of the community. As you depart, increased is your attention to the needs of others, but to the importance of community and interdependence for all of us inside and outside the Christian world. God calls us not to be an inward-looking society, but to always look outwards, beyond the isolating boundaries we may sometimes desire.

And your language skills improved by far, in both Spanish and Italian (perhaps English as well)! But it was not merely the languages you learned, but what you learned about language that matters. You saw God’s love working across, between, through, and beyond languages of all kinds. You were – and remain – moved by the spirit of Pentecost in the living world, not only in the pages of Scripture. You are changed, not merely in the words and languages with which you can now listen and communicate, but in being better able to listen to all the ways in which God speaks to and through us. You have become conversant, and you are working my way toward fluency in the varied structures of society, not simply grammatical or syntactical structures that make up the cultures of our world.

You learned scores about a congregation that you have come to know and love. And you have learned about this title of “missionary”, that it doesn’t always mean what one might expect. Far from just the liturgy or history, the membership or various eccentricities of the congregation, you got to know the soul of this church. In one of the greatest cities in Christendom and around the continent, you came to understand far more deeply the identity of the “one, holy catholic and apostolic church” and as Bishop Curry says, our “Anglican/Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement”. While last year you tepidly accepted the title of “missionary”, always apologizing for the colonial history so often tied to that term, you now claim the missionary calling – to spread the love of God near and far, accomplishing that which God calls all of us to do. And you continue forward with even greater missionary zeal, so to speak, to go out confidently as a leader, working together to be the church, serving the “loving, liberating and life-giving God” whom we love.

These broad lessons and life-changing moments have naturally taught you about your sense of calling as a servant of God in the Church more specifically. While you would have had a difficult time considering serving the church outside of very specific and English-only contexts, you are now much more open to hearing the Lord’s call in many different ways. You are now much more open, and much more prepared, to serve in a range of ministerial contexts that you could not have dreamed just twelve months ago. This past year has made you a larger and more open vessel, which I trust God to fill with whatever is needed to serve the Gospel mission on which you are just beginning to embark.

Faithfully yours,

Charles Graves IV

Friday, August 5, 2016

♫♫…Summertime…♫♫ Part 3

In my final month as a YASC missionary in Rome, I was enormously fortunate to take part in a two-week multi-city tour around several Episcopal and Anglican parishes around Europe. Far from being a pleasure trip, each of the cities I visited is home to congregations with especially strong ministries among refugees or other ministries of import to my budding future in the church. I did, however make a brief detour to Scotland for the wedding of one of my closest friends, the Rev. Sarah Dunn to the Rev. Nathan Syer!

"Everyone deserves, not only to survive
but to LIVE"
The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe hosted its annual convention in October at its cathedral in Paris, and I was blessed to be in attendance. Dozens of Episcopal/Anglican laypeople and clergy from across the continent gladly shared hours of information with me about the diverse contexts and ministries they serve in their very different countries. Likewise I was honored to tell them about the Young Adult Service Corps and about my ministry in Rome. At the convention, the sole resolution was to work together more closely an intentionally in support of the diocesan ministries among refugees.

Christ the King, Frankfurt
The most direct-reaching Episcopal ministries among refugees are through ours in Rome, Munich and Waterloo Belgium, closely followed by Frankfurt and others. In July I was fortunate to visit each of the other three cities. There I learned about how our Munich parish invites refugee families to church, not for conversion but for fellowship and community. This remarkable outreach method was recently chronicled by a wonderful report in Episcopal News Service. I have been fortunate to discuss this amazing ministry with their rector, (Fellow Yale Divinity alum) Fr. Christopher Smith on a number of occasions. 

All Saints, Waterloo Belgium
Christ the King in Frankfurt passionately donates money, supplies and volunteers to aid nearby refugee centers as well. Although their parish sits in a part of Germany that has a somewhat smaller refugee population, the parish has taken an active role to support migrants in the largest financial industry capital in Europe. I am fortunate to be a friend of their excellent rector, Fr. John Perris and several of their parishioners visited St. Paul's for our Youth Across Europe convention in May. Very special thanks to Christoph Herpel and especially the Richter family for hosting me in their home while I visited their lovely city!

Conversation & Belgian waffles with Rev. Sunny!
Parishioners in Waterloo Belgium (just outside Brussels & the site of Napoleon's Battle of Waterloo) distribute clothing, supplies and hot meals each week at the city's train station. This program, also chronicled by Episcopal News Service, announced a wonderful grant from Episcopal Relief and Development on the very Sunday when I visited! Many thanks to the Rev. Sunny Halanan and parishioner Felicity Handford for hosting me, showing me around town and telling me all about this growing ministry.

Over the years, I am fortunate to have made many friends from seminary and elsewhere who are now Anglican clergy in England. As I personally progress through the ordination process in the United States, it is fundamentally important to me to learn in depth about the Church of England, as it is essentially the “Mother Church” and the ecclesiastical center spoke of the worldwide Anglican Communion circle. 

With my friend Rev. Seb Harries
Through some of these friendship connections, I was also able to visit a number of congregations in the city, suburbs and exurbs of London, getting to know much about ministry in England, which is often very different from the United States and mainland Europe. Except in the most urban areas, ministry in England is less oriented toward direct mission among refugees and is more spread among a number of pastoral and spiritual ministries in each particular context. As young clergy, they told me all about their first years in ordained life, and in particular the challenges and surprises therein.

My friend Rev. Rebecca Lloyd's
parish in the London suburbs.
As I follow down the same path on American shores, it is a real blessing to get to form and strengthen these strong bonds with partner ministers and ministries in so many different parts of Western Europe. It is so special to see the work of God and the love of Jesus Christ embodied in so many willing hands and hearts across the vast expanse of so many cities and countries. I can’t wait to see how God will continue to manifest in all of these diverse congregations and so many others across Europe, America and across the globe.

Building Walls

I preached the following sermon on July 31, 2016, my final Sunday as the YASC missionary at St. Paul's in Rome.

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 13
July 31, 2016
Mr Charles Graves IV
St. Paul’s Within the Walls

Site of the Battle of Waterloo in Belgium, which I visited in July.
"Walls" of human lives to protect an empire.
I Love the Gospel of Luke. In fact, Luke happens to be my personal favorite of all of the Gospel narratives. And every third summer, we in the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion, along with Roman Catholics and many other denominations find ourselves walking together Sunday by Sunday and story by story in sequence through Luke’s account of Jesus’ teachings. I’m thrilled that this is one of those Summers.
Where the other three Gospels are often more ethereal or metaphysical or more satisfied with spiritual generalities and heavenly interpretations, Luke gets right down to the nitty-gritty. Luke talks about things, possessions, money, sin, righteousness, death not generally, but directly. He goes straight there in no uncertain terms.
In part owing to Luke’s extraordinary directness, this morning’s reading is unusually short, compared to others in Luke and especially in the other three Gospels. The story is very simple. Faced with a simple property dispute among siblings, one that perhaps many of us will have faced at one time or another, Jesus in classic form goes beyond the issue at hand & he does it with a parable.
These days it’s often called the Parable of the Rich Fool, for reasons that are easy to tell. The protagonist, seeing a great surplus of wealth, decides to erect bigger storehouses to hold all his physical gain and take it easy the next few years, hoarding his manifold resources for himself. But wouldn’t you know it, death comes suddenly (as Luke says elsewhere) like a thief in the night, and as they say, you can’t take it all with you anyway.
Conventionally, preachers and religious scholars take this as a simple but very powerful lesson – Use your resources to serve God and others rather than hoarding it for yourself. Guard against greed because you never know when your time may be up. It’s true, and that’s a lesson we all need to learn and be constantly reminded. But there’s another way we ought to see this too.
Building up storehouses isn’t just about greed – it’s about fear and dependence. It’s about seeking to protect ourselves from the outside world by building bigger walls to keep ourselves and our things in while keeping others out. It’s about hoarding our overwhelming resources – much of which were gained on the backs of poorly paid laborers and taken from the mouths of the hungriest in our societies. It’s about fear of interacting with, or seeing the shared humanity of those who work the hardest and receive the least and trying to “protect” ourselves with that which isn’t really even ours to begin with. It’s about thinking that our walls – walls built by the way with the sweat of precise those intended to be kept outside of them – no matter how big or tall or wide or menacing are ever enough to contain the love of God or keep out the sacred equality of all God’s people. Because when in history has that ever worked?
A sign I found on a fence at the Frankfurt, Germany train station.
Just being very rich, sure doesn’t make a person, or a society any more intelligent. In fact, sometimes it makes them even more ignorant and even more foolishly afraid of the world outside its ill-gotten walls. We try to build firmer barriers, not just physically but with our words and in our society. We resort to increasingly gruesome and disgusting forms of intolerance, or racism, or sexism or xenophobia. We harden our hearts and our souls, saying and doing things we otherwise would never have imagined, because we don’t know what else to do. We push more and more extreme forms of separation in a desperate and pitiful ploy to preserve the world as we think we know it.
Try as we might, our walls and our storehouses will never be good enough. And they shouldn’t be. Because this day our very lives are being demanded of us. Just read the headlines of the last few weeks, and you will be quickly reminded of the extreme fragility of this mortal life. Places like Munich, Berlin, Kabul, Normandy, Nice, Fort Myers, Dallas, New Orleans, Baton Rouge and countless others have been tragically reminded, through the shier force of shocking human brutality of the ways in which death can come suddenly and without warning. No city it seems, and no one can feel truly safe in this frightening modern-day world, and what can be more fearsome than that?
It can be so natural to resort to fear and wall-building and hiding behind our money and materials to escape that which makes us nervous and reminds us of our own mortality. But in doing so, we will always always fail.
Instead, this parable and the whole of the Gospels of Christ call us to do just the opposite. To tear down the walls of our fear and recognize the equality of all. Not just to let ourselves out and let others in, but to realize that in the revolutionary love of Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as “in” or “out”. There is no “us” and “them”.
As Paul tells us today, “there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”
Yes, friends, today and every day our very lives, all that we are and all that we have is being demanded of us. Not only on the days on which our mortal lives will end, but every single day. Because every day that God wakes us up and puts air in our lungs and food in our bellies, God is calling us to share that same love with every person we meet. God is calling us to share those resources with all those around us – especially with the poor, the refugee, the stranger, the dis-empowered laborer and and whose who need it most. Because at the end of the day, all that we are and all that we have exists in God alone.
No wall, and no storehouse can change that. This very day, your life is being demanded of you. What then will you do?

Monday, July 4, 2016

♫♫…Summertime…♫♫ Part 2

As I wrote in the previous post, this summer has been a lovely time of reduced stress and a bit more time to breathe in between the constant activities at St. Paul's and the JNRC. It is also a time of remarkable and bittersweet transitions. Just like the end of a school year, the beginning of this summer has been a time to say goodbye for now to dear friends of the last year, and to look back over the time we've shared together. It is also a time for traveling, relaxing at the beach, and taking some time to enjoy the beautiful weather while many prepare to finally return home.

All of these emotions and activities have been so deeply present with me this last month, as the often stifling heat has also set in on the Eternal City. On June 2nd, Italy marked its Independence Day, complete with a fantastic parade and the annual opening of the Palazzo Quirinale - the presidential palace - and its gardens to the public, including a delightful concert for all the people of Italy to enjoy.
Opening of the Palazzo Quirinale!
One week later, I took a quick jaunt to London for a much-needed visit with an old friend. And of course because I'm the ultimate Jesus freak, there was no way I could leave without visiting at least a dozen churches along the way. With a beloved classmate graduating from Oxford and our organ scholar Julia starting there in the Fall, it was a perfect reason to visit the University for the first time. It's a beautiful place, but not quite as pretty as Yale ;)

St. Paul's Cathedral in London and Worcester & Oriel college chapels in Oxford.
Soon after returning to Rome, I was able to mark one more item off the long-term Living-In-Italy-Bucket-List and take a wonderful day trip to Florence. In particular I joyfully did some church-gazing, including their Episcopal Church called St. James and the, famous Duomo di Firenze (the Dome of Florence) at the city's marvelous cathedral. And although I missed the Rome LGBTQ Pride Festival because of a scheduling mishap, I unsuspectingly arrived in Florence on the day of their Pride event. As it happened to fall just a few days after the horrific Orlando shootings, I was humbled and moved to see many signs of solidarity from Italians to the people of Orlando.

Florence! (the sign reads "solidarity for the gays killed & injured in Orlando - NO Homophobia!)
On June 15th, just one week after saying goodbye to Fr. Austin as he takes his summer sabbatical, we also bade farewell to my dear friend and fellow YASCer Paola Sanchez as she returned home to Puerto Rico. It was at many times a fun and exciting year for her, but also marked by some considerable difficulties. It was such a joy to be able to serve this year with her, and just as we arrived together, to see her off at the airport as she departed from Rome. Arrivederci, Paola!
Dropping Paola off at the Airport, June 15, 2016
The moment Paola and I arrived in Rome to meet Fr. Austin, Sept. 16, 2015!

It was also a time of spending final moments with my dear friends Carter & Julia, our organist interns his year at St. Paul's. We've lived together, worked together, celebrated together, shared so many fun times, bizarre conversations, long days, seemingly countless church services and much more over these last nine months, and I am so glad to know them both! Cheers to Julia as she returns home to England and to Carter as he goes back to Kentucky (hopefully to return next year as my successor, the next ministry intern at St. Paul's!). We had the pleasure to enjoy one final day at the beach together last week :)

Julia and her mom, Carter, my mom and I (with Fr. Francisco in the background) a few months ago :)
Our visit to Santa Marinella Beach outside Rome, June 29, 2016
Just before Julia's departure day, we spent our last weekend together by visiting beautiful Venice, one of the biggest marks on my "living in Italy Bucket List"! We had a fabulous time visiting tons of beautiful churches, eating some delicious food, pacing the decadent streets along marvelous boat-lined canals and admiring this glorious city. Until next time, Venezia!
A glorious weekend in Venezia (Venice) Italy!
This week we celebrate the Fourth of July and I join many fellow Americans at the American University of Rome as we celebrate our Independence all the way across the ocean! Hard as it is to believe, only six weeks remain in my time as a missionary here in Rome. On August 15th, I am scheduled to return home to American shores - first to my native Maryland and then to my adoptive home in Ohio. Until then, beloveds, please continue to pray for me throughout my final weeks in Rome and throughout my ministry!


Beautiful St. Paul's in Summer!

Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry

Those thrilling yet sultry lyrics From “Porgy & Bess” By George Gershwin echoed melodically through the halls as I sat typing away in the St. Paul’s/JNRC office one morning last week. My dear friend Rhonda Abouhana, one of the most magnificent sopranos I have ever heard (and a chorister in our marvelous church choir) was practicing this beautiful piece for an upcoming performance, and the glorious tones lured me closer with every passing note. Summertime is one of my favorite musical pieces of all time, not to mention my love of “Porgy & Bess” as a whole since I first learned of it in grade school, so I sat transfixed outside the door, soaking in every second of its harmonic sweetness in my ears.

This summer, my final three months here as a YASC missionary in Rome, have at many times been filled with such sweetness and beauty as that morning musical reprieve, yet also brimming with much of the hard work and continual learning that has characterized this year.

On June 5th, Fr. Austin said goodbye to the St. Paul’s congregation before leaving for a three-month Sabbatical back in the United States. We dearly miss him here, but we’re thrilled for him that he will get a much-needed time of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation back home. In the meantime, we welcome Fr. Glenn Chalmers who recently retired from Holy Apostles Episcopal Church in New York City who will be filling in for him throughout the summer.

Enjoy your Sabbatical Fr. Austin! Welcome Fr. Glenn! 
A funny thing about Summer at St. Paul’s in Rome is that in the summer, since many of our members, being Americans and other expats, have gone home to their relatives in the States while the parish becomes filled with visitors and tourists stopping by on their Roman vacations. Like at most Episcopal churches I know, life slows down markedly during the summer with the major events of our program year suspended until September. Mercifully gone are the extremely long and taxing days of the late winter and Spring that saw me working nonstop from early morning until after midnight virtually seven days a week. After Pentecost with our fantastic finance director Simonetta returned from a 5-month injury leave and some stressful negotiations resolved, we all find ourselves much more comfortable and relaxed in this sunny time of year.

Promo's for our fundraiser beach parties!
At the Refugee Center, while many of our normal programs continue albeit with fewer because the weather is warmer and the breakfast program scarcely needed during the Islamic Ramadan (as most of our guests are Muslims). In late June we marked the week of World Refugee Day with two fundraising events  - both beach parties to provide resources for the JNRC and other related refugee-serving organizations around town. Sadly we were forced to postpone a planned distribution of gift bags to refugees & a planned renovation of the JNRC interfaith worship room due to lack of resources and available staff to coordinate the project. Hopefully they will continue with my succeesor next year! This week we will celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan, with a marvelous feast also celebrating the powerful bonds of love between our Christian and Muslim communities.

In my next post I’ll write more about the travels and transitions that my fellow St. Paul’s interns and I have undergone these last few weeks. Keep reading, friends!