Seminaries Join the Effort to Rebuild Our Church in Haiti
June 1, 2011, New York, NY – Students at Sewanee’s School of Theology and at Virginia Theological Seminary finished the academic year with days-apart fundraisers to benefit Rebuild Our Church in Haiti. Operating independently, the two seminaries are the first to hold student-led initiatives for the national campaign for Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince.
On April 26, Sewanee’s Mission Committee, led by Jessica Babcock, who will be a 2nd year seminarian in September, wrapped up a fundraiser that began with a goal of $320, or $10 for a brick, to be given in honor of each graduate. Additionally, the faculty and staff wanted to honor the class of 2011, and their contributions brought the total raised to $1,500.
Three days later, the student-led Missionary Society at Virginia Theological Seminary hosted a Concert for Haiti featuring musical acts by members of the community. With a goal of 100 bricks, the concert was halfway toward success when seminary Dean Ian Markham stepped to the microphone and offered to match whatever was raised that night. An additional gift from the Missionary Society brought the evening’s total to $4,434.
The students who raised so much money feel they’ve raised something far more important: awareness. Student body president Rebecca Edwards, who helped spearhead the VTS effort, said, "When I was teaching in Haiti, I realized that the cathedral is much more than just a place to worship. It was a center of education - primary and secondary education and the only music school in the country.”
Babcock agrees. "When I learned that rebuilding churches was outside of Episcopal Relief & Development's mission and that the Haiti Cathedral was not insured by the Church Insurance program, I felt we had to help. I've worked with mission programs for eight years in Cuba where I've seen the Episcopal Church thrive as the center of many small villages. I felt that without the Cathedral in Haiti, the capitol couldn't heal. We had to do something as a community."
Both women saw the fundraiser as a way to spread the word. Edwards’ sponsoring Diocese of East Tennessee is already involved in Rebuild Our Church fundraising. “You can’t miss it,” she says. “It’s in all the newsletters, on the website.” The seminary fundraiser helped educate her fellow students about the campaign before graduation sent them off to work across the Episcopal Church.
Graduation brought similar ripple effects to Sewanee. School of Theology dean, William Stafford designated half of the offering collected during the School’s 2011 Commencement Service on May 13 for the rebuilding efforts. Earlier this year Associate Dean for Community Life Walter Brownridge brought the campaign to the attention of Archbishop Tutu, who quickly endorsed the effort as an emblem of unity within the Episcopal Church.
Rebuild Our Church in Haiti is a national, grass-roots effort launched on the 1st anniversary of the magnitude seven earthquake that decimated Haiti in 2010. The appeal was authorized by Executive Council in response to the request from Bishop Jean Zach Duracin and the people of Haiti to help rebuild the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. For more information visit www.episcopalchurch.org/haitiappeal.