We love hearing stories about the ways Lent Madness makes a difference, and we have quite a story to share today. As you might have seen from coverage in Episcopal News Service, the Anglican Communion News Service, the Episcopal Cafe, or the Living Church, there's a new church in California. Two Episcopal congregations merged, and they wanted to begin their new life together under a new name.
Inspired by 2018 Golden Halo winner Anna Alexander, they have chosen to call themselves St. Anna's Episcopal Church. Here's the release their rector, the Rev. Jill Honodel, sent us. We at Lent Madness HQ pray that this new community has a flourishing ministry in which lives are transformed through the grace of Jesus Christ.
Antioch, California – Sunday, in a much-anticipated liturgy, the words of the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California, soared through the air, “It is my delight to authorize with the consent of the Standing Committee the organization of St. George’s and St. Alban’s into a new bishop’s congregation with the name of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church.”
With those words read by Canon to the Ordinary Abbott Bailey, the first Episcopal Church in the nation to be named after St. Anna Alexander was created. A community celebration is planned for July 21.
Anna Ellison Butler Alexander is a new saint in the Episcopal tradition whose Feast Day is on September 24th and will be included in the next edition of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. She came to the attention of St. George’s, Antioch, and St. Alban’s, Brentwood, during last year’s Lent Madness, Forward Movement’s version of March Madness with saints “competing” in the brackets. St. Anna “won” the Golden Halo, six months before General Convention reaffirmed her sainthood in July. Born shortly after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Anna Alexander devoted her life to the service of others by providing much needed education and literacy to the children of those formerly enslaved. Despite the segregation of the Episcopal Church at the time, she became the first African American Deaconess in the Episcopal Church.
The new congregation has parishioners who hail directly from Uganda, Liberia, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Korea, Mexico, Canada, Holland, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Bermuda and Ghana among others. The Rev. Jill Honodel, Long-Term Supply Priest said, “We were so inspired by Anna's story of the pouring out her life for the sake of those formerly enslaved; despite having little resources she managed over time to build a school as well as a church to help people succeed through literacy. Educational segregation exists right here in our neighborhood in that only 9% of the African American boys pass their math through high school. We are inspired by St. Anna to do our part so that as many people as possible have a chance to succeed and the opportunity for a good future.” When parishioner Betty Smith saw the saint’s photo on the front cover of Sunday’s bulletin, she said, “It was good to come to church this morning and to see a saint of the church that looks like me. I’m really thankful that God has given this to me in my time.”