By Kirk Petersen
When disaster strikes, Episcopalians who want to help often look for a way to do so through the church. The plight of the Ukrainian people has touched a lot of hearts, but finding an Episcopal way to donate is a bit complicated.
Episcopal Relief & Development is the go-to option for many kinds of crises, but Europe is not a major focus of its ongoing efforts. ERD has a regional office in Ghana and partnerships with organizations on the ground in two dozen countries, primarily in Africa and Latin America, in addition to its extensive work in the United States.
The agency often launches hurricane relief funds before the winds have fully abated. The Russians invaded on February 24, and on February 28 the agency announced: “Working through the Action by Churches Together Alliance (ACT Alliance), Episcopal Relief & Development will provide cash, blankets, hygiene supplies and other needed assistance” to people fleeing violence in Ukraine.
ACT Alliance is headquartered in Switzerland, and has partnerships in 120 countries around the world. Its members include 140 faith-based organizations. It does not appear to have any Ukraine-based members, but announced February 26 that its Hungarian member, Hungarian Interchurch Aid, had sent 28 tons of food and hygiene products to refugee centers in the southwest Ukrainian cities of Beregszász and Uzhhorod.
“Episcopal Relief & Development is not a member of the ACT Alliance, but we have been affiliated observers for over 15 years,” said Stephanie Quick, media relations manager for the agency. “Several of our sister Anglican agencies are members. We work directly with the ACT Alliance as a complement to our work with Anglican partners in disaster response. A recent prior example where we worked with ACT was in response to the Nepal Earthquake in 2015.”
She said donations made through the Ukraine relief page will be earmarked for Ukraine.
For refugee crises, thoughts turn to Episcopal Migration Ministries, but they operate solely in the United States. Spokesperson Kendall Martin told TLC that Ukrainians refugee resettlement in the United States could become a possibility if the crisis become protracted, in which case EMM would become involved as one of the nine organizations that manage refugee resettlement for the federal government.
One Upstate New York church has found an innovative way to help on a small scale. St. Mark’s Episcopal in LeRoy, which is southwest of Rochester, is sponsoring a “stitch-in” on March 12, based on a cross-stitch pattern from a stitcher who lives in Kyiv. For a $10 donation, participants get a pattern, fabric, floss, and needle, with all proceeds going to UNICEF’s appeal for Ukrainian children.
There are not a lot of close cultural ties between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church, but TLC did locate a half-Ukrainian Episcopal priest on Long Island who was formerly a member of the Ukrainian church.
The Rev. John Shirley, priest-in-charge at St. Mary’s in Ronkonkoma, New York, is an advocate of donating through the people who are most affected. Despite his conversion, he strongly vouches for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA as a responsible charitable organization. “There won’t be 78 cents of the dollar spent on overhead,” he said, for money donated through the church’s donation appeal.