After the remarkable coming together of landless people, indigenous farm workers (representatives of the Guarani tribe), the bishop of the diocese, local parishoners of Ascension, Cascavel, with their totally committed, dynamic rector, Carlos Gabas, on Saturday (all in the previous blog entry), it was time on Sunday to visit a landless community and a group of the Guarani.
The landless people are not like the homeless in San Francisco and across urban America, in that they have shelters — wooden shacks made with cast off planks, with earthen floors. These basic shelters are on land they do not own, or even rent from the great agricultural landowners, so they are not like tenant farmers in this country either.
There is a simple but attractive Anglican chapel in the landless community, built by Ascension led by Fr. Gabas, but it is not the first Anglican chapel on the sight. The previous chapel was bull-dozed down by people working for the landowners. Fr. Gabas and these landless people do not give up, thankfully, and we worshiped in a rebuilt chapel.
The chapel was packed, the lunch following the Eucharist was delicious and plentiful, and it humbled me, once again, to be the recipient of so much hospitality.
After lunch, Bishop Naudal, Michael Tedrick, and the great translator who had helped me through the weekend, Marcel, left for Curitiba. And then, the seeming joke was set up (by God, it seems) — the bishop, the priest, the communist, and the software engineer all got into a car headed to visit an indigenous tribe. But the lives of these 85 Guarani is no joke, neither from the standpoint of their advanced spirituality, nor from the standpoint of people coping with rural poverty of an acute nature I had never before seen.
This group of 85 Guarani lives in a remnant of the once-vast forests. The adults are agricultural workers, like the landless people we visited in the morning. But here, in the forest home of the Guarani there is no electricity, and only minimal water. The challenge, however, is not to mistake physical deprivation as a marker for spiritual, cultural primitivism — the Guarani have maintained their language, their social system, and their religion.
Four shamans are in this small group, and one chief. While I was there they held a ritual service of great power, humor, and numinous presence. I had only mere inklings of its meaning, but I was swept up in the experience, and felt a collective kindness and acceptance from people who could be filled with resentment for anything coming from Western culture.
Again, as with the landless people, the Anglican Church is standing with these Guarani. Bishop Naudal, Fr. Gabas, and the people of Ascension Parish are working with some young university professors to help the Guarani in Cascavel advocate for their rights. They are also seeking to create a coalition between the landless people, the Guarani, and the parish for grassroots change. This was Anglican Christianity at its most inspiring for me.
Friday, April 22, 2011 • 6 p.m.
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco
You are invited to a unique event of sacred expression — an interactive service of music, dance, and art exploring the rich meaning found in the conjunction of Good Friday and the observance of International Earth Day. Over the centuries, people of Christian faith have meditated on the life of Jesus and the scope of divine love — Jesus’ simple and profoundly powerful acts of including all the dispossessed at the table. Christ is understood to embrace the whole earth within self-giving love.
The service is open to all people seeking to gain spiritual strength for the great work of environmental justice and to all people of faith who feel called to explore this profound moment.
— Bishop Marc Handley Andrus of the Episcopal Diocese of California
— Grace Cathedral
Writing from the Episcopal USA-Anglican Church in Brazil Bilateral Meeting, Day 1, Saturday April 2:
After a long flight from the House of Bishops meeting (March 25–30), through D.C., to Sao Paulo, a regional air flight to Iguassu Falls, and then a two-hour drive to Cascavel, I have to admit that I was bracing myself for what had been billed as an all day “diocesan synod meeting.”
Instead, I’ve been elated all through this warm day as extraordinary groups of landless young adults, indigenous people, and priests of the Anglican Church in Brazil have been coming together in their common commitment to Christ and to the cause of environmental justice.
The young adults were born in the camps of landless agricultural workers, and are taking part in a great education effort, wherein young people teach other young people. These young women and men attend intensive classes at a university in Cascavel for two months — all day throughout the week — and then return to the camps to teach other young people. One of the young men was wearing a red thread around his wrist. I asked what it signified. He replied, “I tied it on my wrist when I began this program, and it will stay on until I complete this work.”
A priest told a story about one of the indigenous men at the meeting: “A priest came to the community to celebrate the Eucharist. When the service was over, the indigenous people started to sing. The priest was talking to another person while they were singing. Peter came to the microphone and said, ‘Stop! We listened while you prayed. All our songs are prayers; why won´t you listen while we pray?’ ’’ Then one of the indigenous men himself stood in our meeting and said, “We are like the landless agricultural workers because our rights to the land have never been recognized.”
All of these movements, whether of the young, or the indigenous, or the environmentalists — all are based in a heart-felt love for Jesus Christ. As one young woman said, “Our faith is for the whole world because it comes from the same earth on which we all stand; it is a popular movement because we welcome everyone; and it is Christian because we follow Jesus. We never greet one another from across the room, from far off, because Jesus has brought us close and given us a life together — we always come to each other and hug.”
I promise I will always look forward to Church meetings from this time forward!