Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society exhibit space features churchwide mission during General Convention 2015

Homeless Jesus, refugee tent, Haitian cathedral murals, United Thank Offering
June 18, 2015
The Public Affairs Office

The far-reaching and all-encompassing mission and ministry of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society – from aid to Haiti and relief for refugees to homelessness, poverty and grants -- will be highlighted through a series of rotating, innovative displays in the exhibit hall during the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church.  

“The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is the whole Church,” noted Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer.  “Every Episcopalian is a member.  This is an opportunity to showcase and celebrate the ministry of The Episcopal Church carried out through its Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society. This is an opportunity to invite the Church’s leadership into the Missionary Society’s work and to celebrate what we’ve accomplished.  More importantly, it is a chance to be inspired for what is yet to come.”

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will be held June 25 – July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah).  The exhibit hall at General Convention will be open from Tuesday, June 23 through Wednesday, July 1.  The Domestic and Foreign Missionary exhibit space will be in a prominent place in the hall marked by banners in three languages.


Homeless Jesus

The series of poignant displays in the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society exhibit space kicks off with the well-known, and sometimes controversial, sculpture known as Homeless Jesus on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, June 23, 24, and 25.

The bronze sculpture, Homeless Jesus, was created by Canadian Timothy P. Schmalz and presents Jesus as a homeless person who is sleeping on a park bench. 

Homeless Jesus reminds us that all mission is about finding Jesus, and that nowhere in this world is Jesus more present than he is in and among the poor,” said Alex Baumgarten, Director of Public Engagement and Mission Communication for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  “Homeless Jesus has sparked conversation and in some cases controversy wherever it has been presented in both the United States and Canada.”

Accompanying the famous artwork will be presentations on the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s work to challenge domestic poverty, a key outreach of the 2012 General Convention, and the new Episcopal Asset Map now online at The Rev. Canon Mark Stevenson, Domestic Poverty Missioner for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will host this outreach in the exhibit space.


Examples of the Church’s mission and ministry continue on Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27 when a tent from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR) will be erected, thereby offering an experience of solidarity with  refugees’ journey as they seek asylum in a safer place, like the United States.

“The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society resettles refugees in partnership with our 30 resettlement affiliates in 26 dioceses across the United States,” commented Samuel McDonald, who oversees the work of refugee resettlement as Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  “In 2014, 70,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. , 5,155 of whom were resettled through the work of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society."

The professional staff from Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee-resettlement service of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, including its director Deborah Stein, and the Office of Government Relations will provide learning overviews and discussion sessions about refugees and how dioceses and congregations can assist.  “Involving Episcopalians in the work of refugee resettlement is as much a part of the work of refugee resettlement as the refugees themselves,” McDonald explained.  “Answering God’s call to share in this work gives us as people a faith a great gift to share in God’s mission and to meet Jesus in an incarnational way.” 


Murals from Haiti

On Sunday, June 28 and Monday, June 29, surviving portions of the world famous murals from Cathedrale Sainte Trinite, the Episcopal cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, will be on display.  Haiti is The Episcopal Church’s largest diocese.

Most of the distinctive murals were destroyed in the devastating Haitian earthquake January 2010.  With the help of the Smithsonian Institution, fragments of some of the murals were salvaged and stored securely on the cathedral grounds.  This will be the first public display of the murals since the earthquake.

Since that earthquake, the Episcopal Church has been engaged in and dedicated to rebuilding and fundraising efforts, for the cathedral and other diocesan ministries and institutions. 

“The murals are intended to invite all of us into the heart of God,” said Bishop Sauls, who is deeply involved in efforts, as he said, “to rebuild our church in Haiti.  God’s heart breaks at the suffering of the Haitian people, just as the murals are broken.  God’s heart is the wellspring of compassion for humanity, and the murals call us to be God’s compassionate response.  I have seen them recently. They are in some ways an even more powerful icon than they were before.  I hope all deputies, bishops, and visitors to Convention will come to see them.” 

The presence of the murals in the booth will be hosted by the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society’s Development Office and its interim director, the Rev. David Boyd.


United Thank Offering

A giant, walk-in presentation of the familiar and much-loved Blue Box of the United Thank Offering will be featured on Tuesday, June 30 and Wednesday, July 1, in honor of the ministry’s 125th anniversary.

The interior of the large Blue Box will feature an exhibit on the history of the ministry of the United Thank Offering is, a ministry to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church. Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering awards grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

“The easily recognizable Blue Box has been a mainstay of United Thank Offering throughout most of its 125 years,” McDonald explained. “The display will be another way to celebrate the anniversary while connecting with the Blue Box and its meaning in thankfulness.”

For those not attending or on-site in Salt Lake City, the Media Hub of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society will bring all the action of the 78th General Convention to everyone, wherever he or she may be, at no fee. The Media Hub is available here

The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with clergy and lay deputies elected from the 109 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church, at more than 800 members.




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