On the last Saturday of January 2015, the Episcopal Anglican Church of El Salvador (Iglesia Episcopal Anglicana de El Salvador, IAES), a member of the Anglican Province of the Region of Central America, consecrated its second bishop diocesan, the Rt. Rev’d Juan David Alvarado Melgar. Bishop Alvarado was elected in a special convention last August. I was a candidate (first woman candidate for bishop in the entire province) in that election and felt it important to return to the consecration to support both Bishop Alvarado and retiring bishop, the Rt. Rev’d Martín Barahona. At the same time, I travelled as a member of this diocese’s Standing Committee and had the privilege of presenting greetings to Bishops Alvarado and Barahona from our bishop, Thomas Ely.
While the Episcopal Church in Vermont does not have a formal “companion relationship” with the IAES, we have had a long-standing connection with the bishop and people of that church. Since 2000, Foundation Cristosal, a foundation that works with the IAES and now focuses greatly on human rights, has been incorporated in the State of Vermont, and the Bishop of Vermont is a member of the board. (Stay tuned for information about a Global School trip to El Salvador that will focus on LGBTQ rights in El Salvador next July.) Many people in this diocese have travelled to this tiny, but populous, country in Central America. I have been its Canon Missioner since 2004, a ministry to which the new bishop re-appointed me.
During my all-too-brief trip to El Salvador, I visited the small congregation of San Romero de las Américas in Sonsonate. This congregation does not have a church building. Instead, it worships under a thatched roof in a structure with no walls. Bishop Barahona, now Bishop Emeritus and Ambassador for Peace, the Rev’d Germán López, priest in charge of the congregation, and I signed a pact with the congregation to work toward reconciliation and truth telling on a national level. We made these promises the day that the Vatican announced the process toward beatification of Msr. Oscar Romero, martyr for faith, something for which the Salvadoran people have long sought.
In addition to attending the consecration, which took place in the pro-cathedral, San Juan Evangelista, in all its glory — with 17 bishops and 40 priests and deacons from Central America, the Caribbean and the United States, members from the 19 congregations of the IAES, a church school with over 100 children and visitors from The Episcopal Church — I preached and presided at the last service of the congregation that worships in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at the diocesan house. This congregation, now named the Ministry of Magdala, will be worshipping off-site. The service was bittersweet — it was Bishop Barahona’s first Holy Eucharist as Bishop Emeritus. We blessed him for his birthday and his new ministry and we remembered the 19 years of joy and sorrow that this congregation has shared in the space of the chapel. I presented them with an icon of Mary Magdalene and together we prayed for the congregation’s new life and witness to the God of Love.
Do keep the Episcopal Anglican Church of El Salvador, its new bishop, its bishop emeritus and Foundation Cristosal in your prayers and support. All witness in remarkable and prophetic ways to Jesus’ love of the outcast and those living on the margins. All seek new expressions of faith. And all work toward that perfect peace, shalom, that God so desires for everyone.
For more information:
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008320441956&fref=ts [Facebook page on the IAES]
https://www.facebook.com/espiritusantoiaes?fref=ts [Facebook page on Ministry of Magdala]
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lee-Crawford-Can%C3%B3niga-Misionera-IAES/728761550492784?fref=ts [Canon Missioner’s Facebook page]
Above image: The Rev. Canon Lee Crawford offers a blessing on the occasion of Bishop Barahona’s birthday and retirement
The consecration took place in the pro-cathedral, San Juan Evangelista
A “selfie” with the Rev. Canon Lee Crawford, the Rt. Rev. Juan David Alvarado Melgar and the Rt. Rev. Martín Barahona
The congregation of San Romero de las Américas in Sonsonate
The Rev. Germán López signing the commitment to work toward truth and reconciliation. Bishop Barahona looks on.