Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

Decriminalization of Prostitution in New York State

Friday, July 26th, 2019

This post is from the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser and me:

Earlier this week on Tuesday, July 23, Incarnation hosted an educational forum on Bill A.8230/S.6419, which was introduced last month by Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and Senator Julia Salazar. The bill seeks to fully decriminalize prostitution in New York State.

We had a panel of experts who spoke in favor of the bill’s provision to decriminalize people who are in prostitution and against the bill’s other provisions to decriminalize sex buyers, facilitators of the sale of sex (i.e., pimps), and brothel keepers.

We anticipated and welcomed a large crowd made up of people with varying viewpoints on the issue. Handouts included a detailed legal analysis of the bill.  Audience Q&A included reading aloud written questions from both supporters and opponents of the bill.

Prior to the event, we were alerted to a planned protest by DecrimNY outside our forum. We shared this information with the 17th Precinct, and they arranged for two plain clothes officers to be present in the sanctuary.  From what we understand, a peaceful protest gathered outside during the event, and the 17th Precinct responded in a calm manner and in a way they deemed fit, including calling in additional officers.

When some of the protesters came inside near the end of the event, a panelist and survivor leader was speaking. The protesters were asked to comply with our written policy given to attendees that no protests or disruptive behavior would be permitted inside the church. Those who did not comply were escorted out.

While those who responded to the protest inside the church acted responsibly, we are deeply saddened that it came to this.  The issue of decriminalizing prostitution is an emotional one that involves people who have suffered greatly in many ways. We understand that conversation ensued outside, and that members of the Episcopal Diocese of New York Task Force Against Human Trafficking — the event sponsor — ministered to some of the protesters.

The Episcopal Church respects the dignity of every human being, is LGBTQ affirming, and seeks to serve the most vulnerable in accordance with the command of Jesus. We are grateful that there is common ground between activists both for and against the bill — decriminalizing those in prostitution — and pray for a way forward that reduces victimization in the sex trade and holds those that do harm accountable. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Joys of Camping

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Summer camp. Just the phrase seems old-fashioned. Living in tents. Splashing in the water. Singing by the campfire. Sunday in the chapel.

That’s life at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT–a camp founded by the Church of the Incarnation in 1886. No cell phones or computers, just fresh air fun pretty much like a century ago.

And yet the camp remains incredibly popular, with two overnight camps and two day camps running simultaneously and accommodating hundred of children. Spots at the teen-age camp, where the kids cook all their own meals, are filled by March.

I was just in Ivoryton for a Board of Directors meeting and I marveled at the success of the place. The oldest church camp in the country–what a great ministry of our church.–J. Douglas Ousley


The Best Kind of Publicity

Monday, July 1st, 2019

When it comes to religion, it’s hard to think of anything new. Christianity has been around for two thousand years; almost every form of ministry has been tried at one time or another.

But Incarnation’s Associate Rector has beaten the odds. She has invented a new form of ministry that just became the subject of a post on the Religious News Service. Once a week for half an hour, the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser stands on the church steps and offers blessings to passers-by. She always has people coming up to her for advice and prayer.

Besides being innovative, this takes guts! I have subbed for Adrian a few times when she was on vacation and I can attest that you are vulnerable to all kinds of stares and comments.

But Adrian has done this for four years, and she deserves all the credit she gets. What a great way to show the love of God to the world. —J. Douglas Ousley


Prayer List

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

Incarnation maintains a list of names of persons to pray for; we ask God to heal them of physical, mental, or other problems.

There are always twenty or thirty names on the list. Some names are removed when the persons feel better; others are removed when the persons die. Some people with chronic conditions are on the list for years; others only for a week or two.

While the majority of persons whom we pray for are not parishioners but relatives or friends of parishioners, we all feel a relationship with the names we hear. They make our prayers personal; we are reminded that our faith has a tangible effect in the world we live in. We sometimes silently add names of persons known to us in need of healing.

Whatever the affliction, prayer comforts. As Jesus said, by our faith, we are healed.–J. Douglas Ousley

 


The Gathering Storm

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Hurricanes are bad enough. Imagine them arriving before all the modern ways of forecasting the weather were available.

A hundred years ago, people might have had at best a few hours warning that a powerful storm was on the way. They couldn’t board up their windows, much less evacuate. I remember my grandfather talking about the arrival of the Hurricane of 1938 and how it came without warning to his orchard in Massachusetts.

Yet with all our technology, we still can’t control the weather. As Jesus remarked, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” So the theological lesson is clear: we don’t have ultimate control over our lives. Only God has that control, and his own influence over the world remains mysterious (he doesn’t save everyone from storms, for example.)

No wonder then that religion requires a lot of effort on our part to discern the workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And no wonder that much of the labor of religion is prayer. —J. Douglas Ousley


Homeless in Murray Hill–III

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

My first boss in the church would often say, if you complimented him on one of his sermons, “I always preach to myself.”

I certainly do the same. And I find the topics of my sermons regularly hit home in unexpected ways.

As it happens, I preached last Sunday on the problem of the homeless in our neighborhood. Lo and behold, two days later, I found myself arguing with a gentleman who has been sleeping regularly on our property. I suggested as I have many times that he find some other place to sleep, since the neighbors have complained. Although the man is young and apparently healthy, he appears to have significant mental issues. He certainly gets very angry at me.

What should I do? I can’t let the church become a campground. This man needs far more help with his life than I can give him. He is also potentially a danger to passers-by. I have contacted a friend in the local police precinct, but I know the police have little authority over the homeless.

What should I do? Nothing in my sermon answered that question. Suggestions welcome!–J. Douglas Ousley


Homeless in Murray Hill–II

Monday, June 5th, 2017

I’m preaching an old sermon this Sunday; it’s entitled, “Street People.” The sermon is about the Good Samaritan parable and how it might be applied to daily life. This message got a fair amount of feedback at the time, and a version was eventually published in the Christian Century magazine.

I rarely repeat sermons, as the context of sermons changes so rapidly that God’s message to a given moment may not apply to a different moment, even a few years later.

But I am curious to see how my early-90’s thoughts stand the test of time today, when we in Manhattan are facing a new flood of street people. Pope Francis recently had some noble words about always engaging in some way with beggars on the street. Many of us (who spend a lot more time navigating popular thoroughfares than the Pope does) may find his advice inadequate.

That said, I am still thinking about the proper Christian response to people on the street. —J. Douglas Ousley


Touched

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Recently, I was surprised to notice one of our most senior members enjoying a new smart phone. She hadn’t struck me as being particularly tech-savvy, so I asked her how she was making out with the device. She said she was doing OK, thanks to instruction that she had received from one of our younger members during a Senior Resource Day.

This is one of many examples of how our ministry reaches out to people and improves their lives. Often, we can’t measure what we’ve accomplished. It’s impossible to track how many victims of trafficking are discovered and helped as a result of our advocacy of training of staff in hotels. We can’t know how many people have been cheered by flowers blooming in our church garden.

But whether or not we can take credit for our ministry, we can be thankful that we are given occasions to serve in God’s name. —J. Douglas Ousley

 


Incarnation in the News

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Twice in two days. What a great Easter week for Incarnation.

On Easter Monday, The NY Times published a fine article that mentioned our outreach ministry to combat human trafficking. Our Associate Rector, the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser was quoted in the piece.

On Easter Tuesday, The Times published a wonderful op-ed piece by columnist David Brooks. He discusses how Incarnation Camp was and is for him a “thick” institution. Brooks is a strong supporter of the camp, which was founded by the Church of the Incarnation in 1886, and he sits on our Board (of which I am Vice-President.)

So, as the Easter music is still ringing in our ears, we are reminded of how much of the Church’s work goes on outside the church. —J. Douglas Ousley


New Signs of Incarnation on 35th Street

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

In the pre-Christmas rush, it’s easy to overlook events that aren’t directly related to the holiday. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by the uptick in attendance at some of our groups, and at the number of new people showing up repeatedly at services and events.

Particularly gratifying have been some very generous gifts to our outreach ministries from people who have given little or nothing in the past. We are so blessed at Incarnation–not only with the faithful who keep the doors open and the candles lit, but also with folks on the fringes of our parish who look to us for inspiration and who do what they can to support our work.

Happy Feast of the Incarnation! —J. Douglas Ousley