Foundation honors Phoebe Griswold, two congregations

May 29, 2009

The Episcopal Church Foundation, celebrating its 60th anniversary on May 28 at a benefit dinner in New York, recognized two dynamic congregations and honored a leader who said she’s spurred into action when she asks, "What is missing?"

Foundation chair H.M. "Mac" McFarling presented the Henry Knox Sherrill Medal, which acknowledges outstanding service to the Episcopal Church, to Phoebe Griswold, whose areas of involvement include women's ministries, the Middle East and the visual arts.

Foundation president Donald Romanik gave the inaugural Congregational Vitality Awards to 16-year-old Christ Church, Glen Allen, Virginia, and 138-year-old Grace Church of Syracuse, New York.

At a reception before the awards dinner, Griswold said she often looks at a situation and asks, "What is missing to make this picture whole?" As an example, she referred to a trip to the Middle East about a decade ago that she took with her husband, then-Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. "There were no women on the agenda. That put on my gender glasses," she commented.

That experience led to the founding of Anglican Women’s Empowerment, an organization that seeks to focus Anglican attention on women's issues in the world and within the church. It operates under the auspices of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Observer at the United Nations.

Another "missing" piece she noticed was that "there was no way to access artists in the Episcopal Church." Griswold filled in the artist puzzle by co-founding Episcopal Church and Visual Arts, a website that lists artists, supports them and displays their work.

She noted wryly, "When I say 'I have an idea,' my friends scatter."

The Middle East has been an area of Griswold’s concern for years. She is currently a board member and president-elect of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a support group for a diocese that operates hospitals, schools and service organizations in Palestinian areas, Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

At the reception, Claudia Mowatt, a member of the foundation's board, said in an interview that Griswold is "somebody who pulls potential" and has "the gift of exhortation." The foundation's citation said she "has worked tirelessly to keep the Episcopal agenda fresh, relevant, welcoming and nurturing to people from all walks of life."

Congregations honored for living the Gospel in 'faith and love'

Presenting the congregational awards, Romanik said that "at the core, our mission is to help provide a solid foundation for people in the pews, to enable them to hear what God is calling them to do and to live out the Gospel in faith and love."

Christ Church, though a young parish, he said, has moved into a permanent home, hosts 700 to 800 people for Sunday services, and features "strong liturgical practice with an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary musical style." Led by the Rev. Paul Johnson, its hallmarks also include "strong lay leadership and a democratic approach to making important decisions that involves the entire congregation," Romanik said.

Johnson and treasurer David Wasik accepted the award.

Grace Church’s history includes "a long history of social activism and justice," said Romanik. In 1957, St. Philip’s, a historically black Episcopal Church, joined Grace, "making it one of the first integrated Episcopal parishes in the area," he said. Today, it operates the oldest food pantry in Syracuse and has a longstanding relationship with Syracuse University.

The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, rector, and Sabrina Coleman, church warden, accepted the award.

The foundation was established in 1949 by Henry Knox Sherrill (1890-1980), then Presiding Bishop. It provides fundraising, endowment and leadership advice and management to Episcopal dioceses, congregations and related organizations, with a particular emphasis on lay leadership development.