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Vermont Episcopalians challenged to “Rebuild Our Church in Haiti”

Summer is a perfect time for congregations to join the “Rebuild Our Church in Haiti” challenge. Diocesan Council, in adopting a resolution proposed by the Global Reconciliation Committee, asks congregations and individuals “to participate generously” by raising $75,000 for the rebuilding of the complex of institutions associated with Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson will be a special guest at the November Diocesan Convention, and the Council has set a goal of raising $75,000 for this effort, to be presented to her at the Convention Eucharist.

The Bells of Holy Trinity Cathedral, gathered after the earthquake, await a new home. (Credit Lee Alison Crawford)
The Bells of Holy Trinity Cathedral, gathered after the earthquake, await a new home. (Credit Lee Alison Crawford)

The January 12, 2010 earthquake that devastated much of Haiti destroyed a substantial part of the infrastructure of The Episcopal Church’s largest diocese, the Diocese of Haiti. Unlike dioceses in the United States, the Diocese of Haiti had provided significant health, education and cultural resources to the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.

The focal point for the Diocese of Haiti is the Holy Trinity Cathedral complex: the culturally significant Cathedral itself, with its famous murals, Holy Trinity Elementary, Middle and High Schools, Holy Trinity Professional School, Holy Trinity Trade School, Holy Trinity Music School and Conservatory of Music, and St. Margaret’s Convent. Nearly all were destroyed in the earthquake. At the request of Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin, rebuilding the cathedral will be the diocese’s first reconstruction project.

A children’s choir and Haiti’s only philharmonic orchestra were based at the cathedral. Both are performing, and visitors to the ruined cathedral can see music students practicing under an open air shed.

Haitian artists and apprentices have been working with art conservators from the United States in a Smithsonian-run project to conserve the three murals that remained of a world-famous collection of 14 that filled the cathedral’s interior with depictions of Haitian religious life and the life of Christ in Haitian motifs.

To mark the first year since the quake, the Episcopal Church in January launched the Rebuild Our Church in Haiti fundraising campaign to support the initial phase of the cathedral project. Donations already received have ranged from a $500,000 challenge grant from Trinity Wall Street in New York and Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana, to individuals purchasing “bricks” to symbolize the cathedral’s eventual new walls. The Diocese of Vermont was the first diocese to contribute to the effort, even before the campaign had been formally launched.

Tutu supports appeal

In late March, Archbishop Desmond Tutu issued a statement in support of the Rebuild Our Church in Haiti appeal:
“We are all God’s children and we must be one. For this reason I am proud of my sisters and brothers in the Episcopal Church who are joining as one to help their sisters and brothers in Haiti rebuild the church that has helped them endure such difficult times. There is no “conservative” or “liberal” in this project. There is no rich or poor. There is one community of faith joining hands across a continent to raise up a new place for hope to dwell. I honor the church-wide effort to rebuild Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince; it deserves our wholehearted and generous support.”

How to get involved

The Global Reconciliation Committee will serve as diocesan coordinator for this effort, and questions may be addressed to the chair, the Rev. Lee Alison Crawford (lacinvt94@aol.com, or 802-775-4368). However, the Rebuild Our Church in Haiti Web pages (www.episcopalchurch.org/HaitiAppeal) have abundant resources that can be downloaded. They range from planning information to fundraiser ideas to flyers, posters and photos. Also available are a thirteen-week series of bulletin inserts and a thirteen-week series of e-news content.

All ages took part in the Lenten Challenge at St. Barnabas, Norwich, to Rebuild Our Church in Haiti. (Credit Alice Golnick)
All ages took part in the Lenten Challenge at St. Barnabas, Norwich, to Rebuild Our Church in Haiti. (Credit Alice Golnick)

St. Barnabas, Norwich, already raised over $2,000 in their annual Lenten Challenge for this appeal. According to Blanche Cooper, they invited the young—and the young at heart—to buy Lego “bricks” at $10 each and construct a cathedral. She said, “By the week after Easter, we had built both an elementary school and a cathedral, using 203 bricks.”
As the appeal materials say, “Brick by brick, you can help create a new spiritual home for thousands of Episcopalians,” and “Brick by brick, you can raise up the walls of a new cathedral over the ruins of the past.”

It is not necessary to wait until the November Convention to submit donations to the appeal. Funds raised earlier, such as the more than $7,500 sent by the Diocese in late 2010, and those contributed by congregations and individuals between now and the November Convention will count toward the $75,000 goal. Congregations will be asked to bring to Convention, if not a check, a record of their contributions so that the grand total can be offered at the Eucharist.

Checks may be mailed to Holy Trinity Cathedral Fund, c/o Episcopal Church Foundation, 815 Second Ave., New York, New York 10017. Be sure to include the name of the congregation and the Diocese of Vermont.

Individuals can donate by buying bricks at www.episcopalchurch.org/HaitiAppeal. Click the “give” button at the bottom of the page, and it will go to a secure section of the Episcopal Church Foundation’s (ECF) website. Please be sure to include the name of your congregation and Diocese of Vermont so your donation can be included in the Diocese’s total.

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