From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
Homeless Bishop in Haiti stays with his flock
By Pamela Dolan
Special to the Post-Dispatch
Bishop of Haiti, image courtesy of Episcopal Life Online
There are so many stories pouring out of Haiti right now, it’s hard to know how to sort through them or what to say about them. The Episcopal Church has a diocese in Haiti, so I know many people who have close affiliations with that country and people who live there. Even for those of us who have never been to Haiti, six degrees of separation is narrowed down to three, or two, or one.
At all four of our Sunday services our parish prayed fervently for all who have been affected by the earthquake in Haiti. We included in our prayers both the Roman Catholic Archbishop, who died in the earthquake, and also the Episcopal Bishop of Haiti, Jean Zache Duracin, who survived, although his wife was injured and his home destroyed. Now the Episcopal News Service has run this remarkable story about Bishop Duracin.
According to a missionary who spoke to him, the Bishop was given the option to evacuate but said, “No I will stay with my people.”
Rejecting offers to evacuate him from Port-au-Prince, Episcopal Diocese of Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin said Jan. 18 that he must remain in the Haitian capital. […]
“The people are strong,” Duracin told Stanley, echoing messages she has received from other priests. “We still have our people, and they are strong. We need to help them.”
The image of a homeless bishop choosing to stay in a dangerous and devastated place to tend to his people is one that will abide in my heart for some time to come. When a bishop is ordained in our church, part of the liturgy reminds the bishop-elect that “your joy will be to follow him who came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Through his faithfulness and sacrifice, Bishop Duracin is indeed following Jesus, the Good Shepherd who remains steadfastly with his flock even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
There is much more in the story that is worth reading. In a related piece from the Episcopal News Service,Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori was quoted as describing how Bishop Duracin
organized a camp to care for thousands of survivors. “They have water and some food and a purpose — to care for each other and for the suffering around them. The dream of God is becoming real on that soccer field in small and hidden ways.”
We prayed for Haiti on Sunday–a lot of prayers, for those who were dead and those still trapped in the rubble; for those who have lost parents, children, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, community, and their homes; for those who are injured, hungry, and homeless. The prayers went on and on, yet even the outpouring of words and emotion could not capture all that burned in our hearts. We also started raising money, encouraging people to give to Episcopal Relief and Development, which already has staff on the ground in Haiti and is in a good place to make an immediate difference to the people there.
I preached at all four of those services, and it was the first time I have had to preach under such circumstances. The assigned texts at first felt like a bad place to start: they were all passages celebrating God’s abundance and mercy, which seemed like exactly what people would not want to hear about while grappling with issues of suffering and injustice. But the more I dug around in commentaries and prayed with the texts themselves, the more it felt like exactly the right message for the situation. Knowing that in large part I was preaching to myself, I urged the congregation not to turn away from the suffering in Haiti, and not to feel powerless because of it.
Imagine, I suggested, that God himself is the one exclaiming, “I will not keep silent, I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torch.” Remember that it is God who promises to all those in need, “You will be called by a new name, for the Lord delights in you.” Through baptism we have all been called by a new name. We are all children of God, and he delights in each of us. He could not possibly bring such suffering upon any of his children. Finally, I suggested that God might be telling us through these texts that he will not be silent until Haiti is vindicated, restored, and made whole, and that he will neither rest nor keep silent until the whole world can proclaim with the Psalmist, “Your love reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds.”
Now I just wish that I had had the example of Haiti’s own bishop to share with the parish; he is someone embodying God’s love and faithfulness through his actions. There isn’t anything nearly as heroic that I can do, but I can pray and I can speak out and I can send money. And you can, too.