Faith in Durham 2013: Activism, retirements, new leadership

Dec. 25, 2013 @ 03:10 PM

This past year was a noteworthy one in the faith community of Durham and beyond, with some leaders moving on and others stepping up. The local faith community was also involved in state events, like the Moral Monday protests, and responded to a worldwide event, the election of Pope Francis. Here’s a roundup of major faith news here in 2013:

The Rt. Rev. Anne E. Hodges-Copple, who had most recently served at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, was consecrated as bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, a jurisdiction that covers central North Carolina, including Raleigh and Charlotte. The ceremony was held at Duke Chapel. A bishop suffragan is a full bishop, elected by the diocese. Hodges-Copple said to a non-Episcopalian, it could be described as a type of assisting bishop. The Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry is bishop diocesan of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Hodges-Copple has a lot of plans for her role, which involves leading and ministering in several ways.
“We may need some fresh and more bold ways to proclaim the gospel. Jesus’ message is radical. All are welcome,” Hodges-Copple said in June.

One of Durham’s most prominent and visible religious leaders, the Rev. Joe Harvard, retired from First Presbyterian Church in May after 33 years. He was honored by the community at a farewell service at the downtown church, where Durham City Councilman Eugene Brown read a proclamation praising the work in front of and behind the scenes by Joe and his wife, Carlisle Harvard. N.C. Sen. Mike Woodard presented Harvard with the highest state award, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
“I’m looking forward to some down time,” Harvard said upon his retirement. “I’m looking forward to finding out what my good friends and colleagues do Sunday mornings,” he said.
Harvard was pastor of a church outside Atlanta, in Decatur, Ga., before coming to Durham in 1980. “Thirty-three years later I’ve enjoyed every year of it,” he said. “You know, there was been a real good spirit among the religious folk in Durham – clergy and laity – about working together.”
When Harvard arrived in Durham in 1980, so did Rabbi John Friedman, to lead Judea Reform Congregation. The two friends frequently worked together in the community over the years. In August, Friedman announced his upcoming retirement in 2015, after a year sabbatical beginning the summer of 2014. Like Harvard, Friedman will remain in Durham.
“I love Durham and plan to keep living in Durham. My wife and I are very sewn into this community and love being here,” Friedman said in August.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Durham was a leader in the Moral Monday protests at the N.C. General Assembly, organizing the clergy response at the June 10 protest in Raleigh. The Rev. William Turner, pastor of Mount Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham and a professor at Duke Divinity School, also helped organize the clergy response and was arrested at the demonstration clergy attended to speak out against Republican-proposed policies that hurt the poor, they said.
Hawkins said that he wanted people to hear from a moral faith perspective about what’s going on in the state. The voice of the church is often silent, he said.
The Rev. Suzanne Lamport, a retired United Church of Christ pastor and a member of United Church of Chapel Hill, came to multiple N.C. NAACP-driven Moral Monday protests “because what they’re doing is wrong and people need to stand together,” she said in June. “We don’t want to go backwards, or [show] that rich people are more important. We believe all people are important to God,” Lamport said.
Signs in the crowd included those of faith: Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Durham and Carolina Jews for Justice. A joint statement supporting Moral Mondays was also released by leaders of the Episcopal Dioceses of North Carolina and Western North Carolina, Synod of North Carolina of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbytery of New Hope and Presbytery of Charlotte of the Presbyterian Church USA, Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and the North Carolina and Western North Carolina Conferences of the United Methodist Church.
“This is a prophetic call for the people of God,” Hawkins told the crowd at the peaceful protest.

Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham continued to hold its monthly roundtable luncheon meetings at Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church in Northeast Central Durham and renewed its effort in holding vigils for homicide victims in Durham.
Effie Steele, who presided over the annual Vigil Against Violence in February, said that when someone in Durham is murdered, “it’s no longer you or us. It’s us. It’s our community, our state.”
Even if you don’t personally know someone who was murdered, she said, “it happened to us because you know us.” she said.

In March, local Catholics shared their excitement and hopes for the new Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope and the first Jesuit pope. When Pope Francis first addressed the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City, Italy, he asked the people to pray for him.
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who leads the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, said it was a humble gesture.
“That’s just who he is, not just a gesture. He’s a humble man,” Burbidge said.
Burbidge said the challenge for Pope Francis would be new evangelism, and bringing back Catholics who have left. The challenge is not compromising the truth of the Gospel, and welcoming them back with joy and compassion, he said.
Burbidge said in March that he hoped the new pope would be a unifier. “I think he will lead by example,” he said.