Civil Discourse Curriculum: A program for reflection, consideration, discussion

The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations has developed a five-week Civil Discourse Curriculum, focusing on civil discourse and designed for reflection, consideration and discussion.

“The Civil Discourse Curriculum was created as a resource to help folks understand and practice civil discourse, particularly as it relates to discussion about politics, policy and legislation, and why it is so important to living out our Gospel call and solving the problems facing our communities, country and the world,” explained Alan Yarborough, Office of Government Relations Communications Coordinator and Office Manager.

Civil discourse is defined as an engagement in conversation intended to enhance understanding, and has important applications for public policy and civic engagement. 

“We created the curriculum to be a five-week program so people can use it during Lent, but you can engage in it at any point throughout the year,” noted the Rev. Shannon Kelly, Officer for Young Adult and Campus Ministries. “Lent is a particularly good time to pause, read, reflect and learn about the nature of civil discourse, how we can practice it, and why.”

Civil Discourse Curriculum

The Civil Discourse Curriculum, available at no cost here, is a five-week curriculum to guide discussions about politics, policy, and legislation, while strengthening our relationships with one another.

The Curriculum, written by the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations and the Formation Department, encompasses five primary themes:

  • Civil Discourse in Context: An Introduction
  • Tenets for Civil Discourse
  • Values-based Conversations
  • Complexities of Policy
  • Sacred Space for Debate

Each theme incudes specific instructions for group or forum leaders, and interactive components include opening and closing prayers, discussion questions, and various activities aimed at utilizing group settings for entering into deeper reflection on the topics. Each week’s session also includes participant handouts and a facilitator guide.  All material is available in a single document or in separate documents for facilitators and participants by week.

A supplemental document, Voices From The Church, features leaders from around the Episcopal Church reflecting on the intersections of faith, politics, advocacy and civil discourse. These short pieces are intended to serve as guiding words, inspiration and examples of the diversity of views held within our church, yet also stand as a testament to what is shared in common through faith and values.

The Curriculum is designed for church groups, adult forums, campus ministries and youth groups (not recommended for younger than 14 years old).

The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations represents the priorities of the Episcopal Church to the policy community in Washington, D.C. Through engaging Congress, the Administration, and U.S. government departments and agencies, the Office of Government Relations aims to shape and influence policy on critical issues, highlighting the voices and experiences of Episcopalians and Anglicans globally. Drawing on the priorities of General Convention and Church leadership, they structure their work around the three pillars of the Jesus Movement: Care of Creation, Reconciliation, and Evangelism. They seek to connect Episcopalians to their faith by educating, equipping and engaging them to do the work of advocacy through the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN).

For more information, check Episcopal Public Policy Network here or contact Alan Yarborough.


Presiding Bishop Curry on Human Trafficking: “Trafficking in persons is a crime that goes against the most basic tenets of our faith."

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry has issued the following statement on Human Trafficking.


As we observe National Human Trafficking Awareness Month 2018, it is important that we recognize trafficking in persons is a crime that goes against the most basic tenets of our faith. It is also, unfortunately, all too common and puts millions in danger every day.

Human trafficking manifests itself in a variety of ways and in a variety of industries from personal servitude to agriculture to hotels and hospitality or to commercial sex work. But what we know for sure is that in order for this crime to occur, perpetrators must devalue and dehumanize another person. 

We must be clear that all human beings are made in God’s image and each deserves a life free from violence or threat of violence, exploitation, and coercion. We must also condemn structures and systems that make it all too easy for such evil to occur.

I commend the work of dioceses, congregations, and individuals across our Church and the Anglican Communion who are partnering to build awareness, support survivors, and protect against human trafficking. I urge all who follow Jesus to commit to further developing loving, liberating, and life-giving relationships with God and one another.

Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry
The Episcopal Church

The Episcopal Public Policy Network says, "January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We invite you to take action in support of prevention and protection measures and to raise awareness about this issue. Human trafficking takes place in communities around the world with use of "violence, threats, deception, debt bondage, and other manipulative tactics to force people to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will." The International Labor Organization estimates that more than 20 million people are subject to human trafficking."

Since 2000, Congress has reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act every two to four years to ensure the U.S. is implementing the best tools and strategies to combat human trafficking, but it has not yet been reauthorized in the current Congress.

This bipartisan bill authorizes the U.S. government to prevent and respond to human trafficking on a large scale. Among other things, the reauthorization would ensure that the Department of Justice can effectively prosecute trafficking crimes and it also continues supporting the Department of State's annualTrafficking in Persons (TIP) report which measures how countries across the globe are addressing human trafficking and urges them to do better. Congress must reauthorize this comprehensive piece of legislation this year.

Write Congress now and urge them to reauthorize critical legislation against human trafficking!

Beyond legislative advocacy, there are a variety of ways that you as an individual can take action to prevent and address human trafficking at home and abroad. We encourage you to learn about thedifferent types and indicators of human trafficking, save the human trafficking awareness hotline numberin your phone, host an educational forum in your church, and investigate supply chains of products you use.


The Office of Government Relations encourages Episcopalians to take action to fight human trafficking through the Episcopal Public Policy Network here. The Action Alert on human trafficking encourages Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Write Congress here. 

Additional information on advocacy and other ways to combat human trafficking is here. 

On the web:

Presiding Bishop Curry on Human Trafficking: “Trafficking in persons is a crime that goes against the most basic tenets of our faith”


Guest Blog: Mission of Gratitude: UTO and the Good Book Club

Guest Blog: by Sandra Squires, UTO Board President, and the Rev. Canon Heather L. Melton, Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

UTO is grateful to be a part of the Forward Movement experience called the Good Book Club, which begins on February 11, the first Sunday of Lent. The Good Book Club is an invitation to all Episcopalians (and anyone interested) to read through the books of Luke and Acts in the Bible during Lent and Easter. Organizations from around the Church are creating materials to support individuals and groups in the process of reading through the Bible. We are pleased to announce that UTO is offering a free downloadable booklet, Mission of Gratitude, for you to use on this Lenten journey. Each week, the booklet offers a short reflection on the readings, questions for contemplation or discussion, space to journal, and a story and a link to a video about a UTO grant site. We hope that this booklet not only will help you deepen your experience of reading scripture, but also will help you engage with journaling as a way to deepen your gratitude and scripture reading experience. For many of us (Heather especially) keeping a journal is a challenge, so Lent is a great time to try something new and see if it is a discipline you might like to keep doing.

To learn more about the Good Book Club or see what other resources are available, please visit

To download the Mission of Gratitude booklet, please visit

Bishop Rob to Speak on The Spiritual Roots of Social Action

Bishop Hirschfeld will be speaking as part of a series on the "Spiritual Roots of Social Action" at Hanover Friends Meetinghouse, 43 Lebanon St., Hanover, on Sunday, January 28, at 2pm. This event is free and all are invited. This event is co-sponsored by St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Hanover, NH; Norwich Congregational Church, Norwich, VT; and Meriden Congregational Church, Meriden, NH. For more information, contact or VISIT the events page.



Immigration Forum in Keene, January 21

On Sunday Jan. 21, 2018, a forum on the Economic and Human costs of our current Immigration policy and ways faith communities can respond to these concerns will be held in the Jonathan Daniels room at St James Episcopal Church, 44 West St in Keene NH from 2-4pm. Presenters will be Sarah Jane Knoy, Executive Director of Granite State Organizing and Eva Castillo, Executive Director of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees and Welcoming NH.

 This event is co-sponsored by Keene Immigrant and Refugee Partnership, Monadnock Interfaith Project and St James Episcopal Church. This event is free and open to all. For more information, contact Bridget Hansel 357-3656.    

Georgia Revival and Deaconess Alexander

Georgia Revival and Deaconess Alexander

From the Office of Formation of The Episcopal Church

On January 20th, the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia will host Fearless Faith, Boundless Love, a revival in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. The revival, which includes a recognition of the life and ministry of Deaconess Anna Alexander, will be a day of celebration, joy, and renewal, as the Church goes out to do the work God has given us to do. Please note that this revival was rescheduled following Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Anna Ellison Butler Alexander was born in 1865 to recently emancipated slaves on Butler Plantation in McIntosh County, Georgia. She would become the first black deaconess in the Episcopal Church. In a calling of more than 60 years, her indomitable spirit and fierce devotion to God still illuminates our understanding of ministry.

Deaconess Alexander’s call was to serve the people of Pennick and Darien, Georgia. She founded Good Shepherd Church in rural Glynn County’s Pennick community, where she taught children to read – by tradition, from the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible—in a one-room schoolhouse. The school was later expanded to two rooms with a loft where she lived. In addition to her ministry at Good Shepherd, she traveled on foot for 15 miles and rowed a small boat on the Altamaha River to serve St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church in Darien. Her tireless work was to teach her pupils about the world and Christian responsibility to all peoples.

This is not to say that Deaconess Alexander served in easy times. The diocese segregated her congregations in 1907 and African American congregations were not invited to another diocesan convention until 1947. Similarly, it was only in the 1950s, after her death, that a woman set aside as a deaconess was recognized as being in deacon’s orders. However, her witness – wearing the distinctive dress of a deaconess, traveling by foot from Brunswick through Darien to Pennick, showing care and love for all she met—represents the best in Christian witness.

Please keep the Georgia Revival, its participants and planners, and the people of Georgia in your prayers. Selected portions of Fearless Faith, Boundless Love, including Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry’s sermon, will be live-streamed on the Episcopal Church’s Facebook page. For more information on Episcopal revivals, including future locations and events, please visit

A Collect for Deaconess Alexander

O God, you called Anna Alexander as a deaconess in your Church, and sent her as teacher and evangelist to the people of Georgia: Grant us the humility to go wherever you send us, and the wisdom to teach the word of Christ to whoever we meet, that all may come to the enlightenment which you intend for your people; through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Savior. Amen.

Feast of the Epiphany

From Episcopal Digital Network:

This coming Saturday, the Church will celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, which marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas each year on January 6.

Epiphany is a Greek word meaning “manifestation” or “appearing.” At the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrate Jesus being made manifest or appearing as Christ. Traditionally, there are three manifestations celebrated on this feast day.

The most widely celebrated manifestation of Christ on this feast day, and the one that has been historically celebrated by Christian churches in the West, is Jesus revealed as Christ to the three wise men, or Magi, from the East, who followed the Star of Bethlehem at Jesus’ birth.

The second manifestation celebrated today is the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Although this was part of the original Epiphany celebrations in second-century Christian churches in the East, by the fourth century Western churches had largely stopped observing the Holy Baptism in Epiphany celebrations. The 1979 Book of Common Prayerbegan to reintroduce Jesus’ baptism into this celebration by revising the lectionary readings for the First Sunday After the Epiphany to include gospel passages each year about Christ’s baptism. The First Sunday After the Epiphany is now also known as the Baptism of Our Lord.

The third manifestation of Jesus as Christ that is traditionally celebrated on this day is the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana in Galilee, Christ’s first recorded miracle.

Looking ahead to Lent

"Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John" Lenten Study is from the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE), written with Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). The prayer journal will guide participants through the season as they connect with Scripture from the Gospel of John. Reflections are provided for each day, along with space for journaling or drawing.

Participants can also sign up for free daily emails from SSJE that will include reflections and short videos. These emails will nicely complement the Lenten study.

As the brothers of SSJE ask: "Have you ever wished to deepen your relationship with God? To experience a warm friendship with God? Maybe even fall in love with God – again – or for the very first time?" This study invites people to do just that.

If you are interested in learning more, we have limited copies of the front booklet at Diocesan House. Contact Tina Pickering for more information.

Presiding Bishop Plans Pastoral Visits to Hurricane Affected Areas

"These pastoral visits are a reminder of the promise of Jesus who said to his followers, ‘I will be with you even until the end of the age.”

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry will embark on four pastoral visits in January 2018 to the hurricane affected areas of Florida, Texas and the Caribbean.

“When the cameras have left, when the world’s attention has gone elsewhere, when other news is the new news of the day, the Church remains bearing witness to the Good News of Jesus,” Presiding Bishop Curry said. “These trips are an opportunity to call to mind our commitment to walk with our brothers and sisters, not just for the short run of the news cycles, for the long haul as communities are rebuilt and built anew.  These pastoral visits are a reminder of the promise of Jesus who said to his followers, ‘I will be with you even until the end of the age.’ And it’s a way of saying that we, as fellow followers of Jesus, will be with you too.”

At each locale, the Presiding Bishop will tour the affected areas, offer and lead prayers, and meet with Episcopal leadership and congregants.

He will be accompanied by members of the Presiding Bishop’s staff and representatives of Episcopal Relief & Development.

His schedule is:

January 2-4: Diocese of Puerto Rico

January 10-12: Diocese of the Virgin Islands

January 13-14: Diocese of Southeast Florida

January 29-31: Diocese of Texas

Bishop Hirschfeld's 2017 Christmas Message

Recently, I happened to be going through some boxes of books in our basement, and I came upon a small well-creased paperback of the poems of Walt Whitman.  It was clearly an old edition and I wondered whose it was. Inside the front cover I found written in blue ink:  Lt. Henry G. Ingraham, US Naval Reserve.  On the inside of the back cover was a list of other titles Penguin Books must have provided to soldiers, sailors and airmen during the war.  There are titles about guerrilla warfare, sabotage, handbooks for Army wives and mothers, as well as The Shipyard Diary of a Woman Welder.

My father-in-law, who was known as Hank, was on a ship in the Pacific during WWII. I guess that he brought this little volume of poetry by another native of Long Island to help him keep soul and mind together on those long, hot, and anxious months of warfare against Japan.  Polly and her brothers tell me that their father spoke very little of his time during the war, like so many who returned from that horrible time.  But looking at his well-thumbed issue of Leaves of Grass led me to imagine that he read in the lines of this most democratic American poet something of the reason for which he was gave so much of the prime of his life and why so many of his fellow sailors and soldiers gave, what Abraham Lincoln called, “the last full measure of their devotion.”

Whitman celebrated not only the diversity of America, but also the full inclusion of every human difference into his robust embrace of every race, creed, gender, sexuality, occupation, political persuasion, and class. Native Americans, immigrants, captains of industry, nursing mothers, laborers, preachers and practitioners of every religion all were cause for exhilaration.  Though he served as a nurse for the Union, Whitman’s love for humanity expanded to the suffering on both sides of the Civil War. He has been called the prophet of our democracy, the poet of what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called the “Four Freedoms” of our nation. If Whitman expressed intolerance for anyone, it was for those who had no tolerance for others, whose small-mindedness threatened to limit the great expansive vision of a nation whose vocation was to see divinity in the human.  It was that intolerance that my father-in-law, and so many of the Great Generation, fought against and sacrificed so much. Now, Hank was not a church-goer, but I believe that carrying the pocket edition of Whitman in his berth on a naval ship in the battle-churned Pacific reminded him of how the rise of totalitarian regimes threatened humanity’s great destiny. What courage and hope such a vision of God’s expansive and inclusive love gave to Whitman, as well as Hank, my-father-in-law, and can give us in our own day.

Which brings me to this Christmas.  We live in a time where we are might be tempted to see in our neighbors enemies who were once considered simply neighbors, fellow citizens, children of God.  The message of Christmas is that in Jesus, God, the Divine Presence, enters and infuses all humankind—indeed all creation, with Divinity, with sacred dignity and beauty, holiness, even among those whom we would least imagine God having anything to do with.  And the divine presence can make us more like the child Jesus in the wooden manger, and the adult Jesus, whose arms of love were stretched out to include all on the hard wood of the cross.

May Jesus, in whom all things human and all things divine find their full union—paradoxical, robust, resounding, multitudinous.  May the appearance of the Word made Flesh to live among us, bring us all a new sense of abiding peace, hope, and joy this Christmas and in the year ahead. 

--The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop, Episcopal Church of New Hampshire