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For People Welcomes Bishop Deon Johnson

“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt – it’s absolute certainty” – Bishop Deon Johnson

In this episode, Bishop Wright has a conversation with Bishop Deon Johnson, 11th Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. They talk about dignity and share stories of grandmothers and Bishop Deon’s favorite life lesson.

Bishop Deon also shares his good news of being a gay Black man in the highest level of leadership in The Episcopal Church. He speaks with kind candor to what he reads in the bible including its history and context.

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Bishop Deon Kevin Johnson was elected on November 23, 2019 as the eleventh bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. He was born in Saint Philip Parish in Barbados. He spent his Sundays with family in church. His family instilled a strong sense of cultural heritage and pride which he still cherishes to this day. He has remained close to his family, and attends family reunions every two to three years. Deon’s love of religion stems from his grandmother who was engaged in theology.

Deon and his brother decided to move to the United States when Deon was 14 years old. They moved in with their father in New York City until their mother came to the United States two years after their arrival. Upon arriving in the U.S., he had to adjust to the different cultures that he was introduced to. He quickly rose to the top of his class and was enrolled in AP and honor courses in high school. He credits his education in Barbados for his academic achievements in the U.S.

Deon has been with his partner for over ten years, and they have been happily married since 2018. They have two kids, a twelve-year-old and a ten-year-old and one godson who is nine years old. He loves spending time with his family and enjoys the fact that his mother is currently living with him and his family.

Deon’s dream for the church is that the church is where there are no outcasts. He wants people to know that they can gather and not feel uncomfortable. The church is a place that reflects God’s vision of the world, but he also realizes that the church often gets it wrong. He offers an apology to his LGBTQ siblings on behalf of the church. He wants to get it right and actively works toward bringing people to Christ on a daily basis.

The Wright House Now a Living, Breathing, Life-Giving Reality

ATHENS, GA – (September 14, 2022) A to-do list item that had eluded three successive Diocese of Atlanta bishops got checked off Wednesday as the new Episcopal chapel at the University of Georgia was consecrated.

Diocesan Bishop Rob Wright said his and his two predecessors’ dream of constructing a new Episcopal ministry facility at the state’s flagship university is now a “living, breathing, life-giving reality.”

“On the drive here today, I was talking with my (immediate) predecessor (retired Bishop Neil Alexander), and he said ‘Rob, Thank you for finally getting this off my to-do list’,” Wright said to laughter and applause from students and supporters in the chapel of the new ministry facility on the UGA campus.

The chapel is part of a five-story Episcopal facility with 123 bedrooms, onsite parking, bike storage, a fitness center, study spaces, an indoor common kitchen, and even a coffee bar. Named The Wright House in honor of Wright’s support for children, youth, and college ministries; the five-story complex also has extensive outdoor common areas adjacent to the building and on the green roof deck.

Wright gave special recognition of the service of two people who were not able to attend the celebration: The Rev. Canon Lang Lowery, who managed the seven-year project.

“It is because of his hard labor, steadfast perseverance, and generosity of spirit we have this roof over our heads.” And retired Canon for Finance and Administration Bonnie Burgess. “Bonnie, we know that it is because of your hard work and sharp pencil over the spreadsheet that we stand here.”

In addition to consecrating the chapel as a space for worship, Wednesday’s service also included blessing the chapel baptismal font, reception of a UGA pharmacy student into the Episcopal Church, and communion.

Wright said that he hopes and expects the facility, and its ministry will be a place of finding.

“That the people who walk through these doors are found. That they find themselves, they find friends, and they find the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; a good and generous God with open arms to all of us.

“That they find God in the ways we Episcopalians hold Scripture, which is a God that loves us deeply, that we are beloved and so is everybody else and that calls us to be the bearers and heralds of good news. That’s what I hope happens in this place. That’s my expectation. That this is a commercial for a loving God,” Wright said.

“I want people to meet that God here and to be found and to know better and have a space to heal and to find their intellect and to find their purpose in life and to find direction, find colleagues and wise guys and people who care for their souls.

“As you know, some years ago the University of Georgia needed to be integrated. And you know that the two apostles of that good work were Charlene Hunter, now Charlene Hunter Gault, and Hamilton Holmes, now deceased. “Guess who I was talking to as I was driving out today – Hamilton Holmes, Jr. And I told him how proud I continue to be of his family and the sacrifices that they made – out of their deep Episcopalian faith.

“They thought this was the right place for him, and that the cost of him being here was worth the pain for the people downstream of him. I said, ‘You don’t think I’m going to say a word or two about you today?’ He said, ‘I don’t mind.’

“On this street (South Lumpkin) Hamilton Holmes was chased one night by some brothers and sisters clad in some sheets around human dignity and now this house gets to be on that street. A house that says to that street and any other street all God’s children have equal dignity, worth and value. Now, that friends, is a good tradition. So let us be known for that here. Let people feel that here by your words and by your example. All of us. Let’s radiate that here because that pleases God.

“[Jesus] said build things on a rock – that’s the rock. That’s the only thing that’s going to endure. When all the xenophobia and homophobia and all the other isms crash and crack at the end of everything the only thing that will be left standing is love. The most durable chemical element in the universe. So, let’s participate in it now. Just say ‘Why don’t you come to the party now? We’ve already won. Come to the party now!’”

The Wright House, which opened to students in August, is an innovative live, study, pray environment for students and a space to foster intentional living. Its on-site chaplain, chapel, and programs are for all UGA students as well as those living there. Learn More about the programs of the Episcopal Campus Ministry at UGA.

Financial rent assistance to underserved and marginalized students is available through The Wright House Foundation. Learn how you can contribute here.

The Wright House occupies the site of the former Episcopal Center and chapel in the heart of The University of Georgia campus at the corner of University Court and South Lumpkin Street. The street address is 980 S Lumpkin St Athens, GA 30605.

The Episcopal Campus Ministry at UGA is one of 11 campus ministries operated by The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. The diocese comprises 117 welcoming worshiping communities throughout middle and north Georgia. For more information about the Diocese and to find a church, school, or ministry near you, click here.

 

Don Plummer
Diocesan Beat Reporter
“Sharing the heartbeat of the diocese.”

College Park Parish Honors First Responders, a Tradition Halted by COVID

COLLEGE PARK, GA – Like Episcopal parishes across the nation, St. John’s Episcopal in College Park on Sunday resumed a longstanding tradition that had been suspended by COVID; their Tri-Cities First Responders Service and Picnic.

The Rev. Tim Black said he was glad the restart could be on September 11, twenty-one years after the terrorist attack on America, and even more for the day’s appointed lectionary readings.

“Sometimes things just fall into place,” Black said in his sermon. “It was also our good fortune that it was a Good Shepherd Sunday.”

In his sermon, Black said “The shepherd protects,” referencing the responsibilities of first responders and shepherds.

“On 9/11 so many of our countrymen went up inside of those buildings with a good idea they might not come out without considering the cost, without stopping for a second to wonder if they were going to make it out or not because they were called to put themselves between the danger that was present on that day and the people in there,” Black said. “This is the type of shepherding we see every day when a fire truck or an EMT truck goes blasting past us as we pull over or as a police car speeds down the road to get to a call.”

Among the first responders attending the service were police officers, firefighters, and Emergency Medical personnel from College Park and East Point.

College Park Police Lieutenant Bruce Braxton, a member of St. John’s, wore his uniform as he read the prayers of the people.

Black asked all first responders to come forward to receive a blessing which was followed by spontaneous applause from the congregation.

One reminder of the constant vigilance required of first responders was displayed by firefighters and EMTs who sat in the back rows of the nave – ready to scramble out if they received a call.

Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright, who was a priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York on 9/11, marked the day by posting this prayer from The Episcopal Diocese of New York.

O Almighty God, who brings good out of evil and turns even the wrath of your children towards your promised peace: Hear our prayers this day as we remember those of many nations and differing faiths whose lives were cut short by the fierce flames of anger and hatred. Hasten the time when the menace of war shall be removed. Cleanse both us and those perceived to be our enemies of all hatred and distrust. Pour out the spirit of peace on all the rulers of our world that we may be brought through strife to the lasting peace of the kingdom of your Son; Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Learn more about St. John’s Episcopal in College Park.


Don Plummer
Diocesan Beat Reporter
“Sharing the heartbeat of the diocese.”

Diocese of Atlanta Youth Clamor to Work At Camp Mikell

TOCCOA, GA – Of the seven summer camps at Camp Mikell, Work Camp is unlike any of the other sessions. First, while the other six are gatherings for relaxing, singing, skits, swimming, hiking, and making new friends for life, Work Camp is, well, work.

Each year campers paint and repair cabins, huts, and shelters, muck out creeks, clear trails, and dig, shovel, hoe, and rake much of the camp’s 460 acres. For their labor they (or their parents) pay $425 tuition – plus $20 each for a hat and t-shirt – And there is a waiting list!

So, what’s the big draw?

Mikell’s executive director, The Rev. Ken Struble, said most of the rising 10th graders through those who just graduated from high school have “grown up at camp (Mikell). We do get a few first-time kids each year, but most have been here many times.”

Struble, who has been the director of Camp Mikell since 2002, said Work Camp began as an extension of 1990s weekend clean-ups by parish youth groups. Camp Mikell Executive Director The Rev John Hall asked Struble, then youth leader at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, to lead the initial week in 1999.

“There was just too much work for our maintenance crew and it would be too expensive for them to do everything needed to keep the camp in shape,” he said.

Since that time the effort to maintain the camp in the North Georgia Blue Ridge mountains has become a tradition for campers; Some from the time they were rising 1st and 2nd-grade mini campers who attend with their parent or guardian.

“When they come to other camps, they take their parents around and show them the projects they’ve worked on. It just really gives them a sense of belonging and being important to Camp Mikell,” Struble said.

Camp Mikell, officially The Mikell Camp and Conference Center, was established in 1933 by the Right Reverend Henry Judah Mikell as part of his efforts to help young people affected by the depression. In 1941 the camp was renamed and relocated to its current location just outside of the city of Toccoa.

Mikell continues to serve the Diocese and beyond as a year-round facility serving people of all ages in the Diocese and its parishes, as well as other groups whose purposes complement its mission.

“We have summer camp, then the place is fully booked with people over Labor Day for family camp, then we have weekend retreats and weekday meetings here until Thanksgiving. Then the weekend retreats and weekly Blue Ridge Outdoor Education groups here right up until summer camp begins,” Struble explained.

He said that people come to Mikell to breathe the country air, to be in a quiet setting, to plan, to pray, to walk in the woods, to revitalize and renew friendships and working relationships. On a personal level, it’s a setting where visitors can gain awareness of themselves, their place in the universe, and the radiance of God.

The camp is accredited by the American Camp Association. It has 240 beds with 79 in semi-private rooms and 164 beds in dorms. Recent improvements include building a five-bedroom lodge, installing new bathrooms in the dorms, installing a new 6-inch water main and fire hydrant in the middle of the camp, and constructing a 21-foot wide, two-way concrete road into the camp.

Mikell is revered by campers and visitors for its great country cooking, including vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Other Mikell attractions are its creeks and trails, a swimming pool, a volleyball court, and a brand-new art shack and nature center. The Mikell Chapel is the figurative and literal center of camp. It is open for worship and meditation and is stocked with supplies for Holy Eucharist.

A 1993 addition, the Blue Ridge Outdoor Education Center, provides hands-on environmental education for school classes, church groups, and others.

Each Spring and Fall The Allan Folk School at Mikell, named for the late Diocese of Atlanta Bishop Frank Allan, offers a weekend of arts, crafts, and fellowship.


Don Plummer
Diocesan Beat Reporter
“Sharing the heartbeat of the diocese.”

For People Welcomes Jason McGee

A Conversation with Choir Director of Mav City Music Jason McGee

Choirs have and will always be an essential part of worship.

You can look at a choir and find you in it.

Jason McGee

There is a power communicated in a diverse choir that spans everything.

– Bishop Wright

In this episode, Bishop Wright has a conversation with Jason McGee, Choir Director of Maverick City Music. In it, they discuss the origin of choirs, the diversity choirs represent, and why Jason said yes to being a part of Imagine Worship in NYC on Oct 3 with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Listen in for the full conversation.

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Jason McGee & The Choir, established in 2015, have become affectionately known as “the choir for hire.” They’ve worked with music icons Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Raphael Sadiq, Logic, and David Foster, just to name a few. They’ve recorded songs for Usher, Gospel superstar Erica Campbell, UK rock band The 1975, Christian artist Matthew Redman, and The Fray’s lead singer Joe King. They can be heard on the movie soundtrack for Birth of a Nation and seen on television shows such as David Tutera’s CELEBrations, CBS’ Pure Genius, and Hallmark’s Home & Family.

In 2016, Jason McGee & The Choir signed with legendary producer Warryn Campbell and his record label MyBlock Inc. They’ve since released hit singles like “Promises,” which was named by Billboard as one of the top added Gospel songs to radio in 2018, along with “Never Let You Go,” and “It’s Not Over.”

Jason McGee & The Choir continue to spread their message of God’s love through music, fashion, and performance. They seek out any opportunity to take that message far beyond the church walls and have become leaders in Gospel and trend setters among choirs. They are grateful for any and all opportunities and have purposed to be “medicine to the spiritually sick.”