Haiti synod participants urged to 'stand up and walk'

April 7, 2010

Gathering April 6-7 for an earthquake-postponed annual synod, the leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti heard its bishop's call to "stand up and walk."

"According to our theme for this year's synod, 'Ayiti Leve Kanpe Pou ou Mache,' 'Haiti, Stand Up and Walk,' Haiti needs all of its sons and daughters to work in solidarity to rebuild, to get Haiti back to its feet," Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin told the gathering at Bon Sauveur in Cange. "In this spirit, we gather as a community, as a church, to pray together and to build up a team to not only work for the church, not only to rebuild our church but to rebuild our country."

Speaking to the synod on Tuesday of Easter Week, Duracin reminded participants that "we believe in the resurrection."

"Since we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe in the resurrection of all of us and of Haiti," he said.

The diocese's 113th synod had been scheduled to meet Jan. 25-26, but the Jan. 12 magnitude-7 earthquake interrupted those plans. The quake destroyed much of the diocese's infrastructure and a highlight of the meeting in Cange was the in-gathering of more than $6,600 in offerings made in part by the diocese's congregations on Easter Sunday for the rebuilding of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince.

Calling the collection "a symbolic offering to rebuild Holy Trinity Cathedral," Duracin said: "We will begin at the cathedral, but we want the whole diocese rebuilt. We are making the effort. We know that ours is not enough and we are counting on our partners. But with faith in God, we will rebuild."

The in-gathering occurred during the convention's nearly three hour-long Eucharist. The service began as several hundred people, including almost all of the diocesan clergy and lay delegates, four choirs and one band, marched through the Bon Sauveur compound housing Partners in Health's Zanmi Lasante project and into the church. Among those watching the procession were Zanmi Lasante patients and staff.

The Rev. Lauren Stanley, Episcopal Church-appointed missionary in Haiti and Duracin's liaison in the U.S. said the liturgy "was filled with joy and hope."

"There is a real sense that Haiti is standing up, and it is walking forward," Stanley told ENS.

Also during the synod participants learned about an offer from Church Pension Group and CREDO to provide clergy and lay leaders of the diocese with a wellness and respite program designed to assist them in their spiritual and emotional recovery from the trauma they suffered during and since the earthquake.

Duracin, who approved the plan, said in his address that "as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:1-10, when he talks about being beaten but not defeated -- that is true for us as well. We have been hurt and beaten but we are not destroyed."

The Rev. Ron Crocker, recently retired rector from St. George's Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, and a CREDO conference faculty member, described the plan to synod participants.

"Using four five-day conferences, we seek to address the psychological and spiritual needs of the clergy and lay leaders, as well as help them develop coping skills both for themselves and for the people they serve," Crocker said.

Later in a telephone interview from Cange, Crocker told ENS that Haiti's clergy and lay leaders "are effectively ministering to the people they serve."

"I am amazed and moved by the quality of the pastoral care and leadership that they are providing when they also have lost so much and are hurting so badly," he said. "They continue to serve the people who are committed to their charge. That's very impressive."

Crocker said that Duracin witnessed to the synod's call to "stand up and walk" from the very beginning of the diocese's post-earthquake life "and the clergy have lived into that."

"The work that we hope to do with clergy wellness is to help them develop further some coping skills as well as give them an opportunity to meet their needs because they're meeting a lot of people's need but their spending very little time meeting their own needs," he said.

CPG had planned to offer the Haitian clergy and their spouses its retirement planning conference, known in the U.S. as "Planning for Tomorrow," just after the planned January synod meeting. It would have been the first time the CPG conference was held in Haiti.

The Rev Canon Bruce W. Woodcock, CPG's manager of international relations, received the initial request for pastoral support for Haiti's clergy shortly after the earthquake, according to information from CPG.

The organization turned to CREDO, a branch of its organization to take the lead in the Haiti effort because it had provided respite care to clergy after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, according to the CPG fact sheet. CREDO provides opportunities for active and retired Church Pension Fund participants to examine significant areas of their lives and to discern prayerfully the future direction of their vocation.

Crocker, Woodcock and CREDO Managing Director Bill Craddock met with Duracin and Stanley to review the plan just before the start of Holy Week.

The four five-day conferences will offer needs assessments, coping skills, rest, worship, and opportunities for personal sharing to clergy, families of clergy, and lay leaders in the diocese, CPG said.

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