By Neva Rae Fox
Even though General Convention has been massively scaled back, the Diocese of Maryland remains poised to welcome Episcopalians to Baltimore this summer. Years of planning did not dimmish the diocese’s ministry and mission. In some cases, outreach and social programs have grown during the preparations.
The diocese has established a General Convention website, gceighty.org, offering information on virtual and in-person walking tours, things to do in Baltimore, and the Trail of Souls.
The Trail of Souls is an online virtual tour and pilgrimage of more than two dozen sites and churches examining slavery in the state, including current effects on society. Born from the diocesan Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Trail of Souls provides a deep examination of slavery in Maryland, starting in Baltimore in the north and concluding at the Claggett Center in the west.
In addition to the diocese’s welcoming efforts, mission and ministry remain important. A video of the bishop’s annual appeal highlights ministry, including to youth and refugees.
At the forefront of the diocese’s mission work, said Carrie Graves, diocesan canon of communications, are the extensive work on reconciliation and reparations, evidenced in grants; the Claggett Center; and the Trail of Souls.
In 2020, the Maryland Convention committed $1 million in seed funds for reparation grants that “uplift the African American/Black communities” throughout the diocese. Major emphases are education, healthcare/eldercare, affordable housing, job creation, and environment.
On May 26, the diocese announced that the first grants, totaling $175,000, were awarded to six organizations for a family and cultural center, crisis intervention assistance, long-term mentoring and coaching for African American boys, assistance to the formerly incarcerated, a focus on at-risk youth, and advancing racial reconciliation through home and business ownership.
The grants acknowledge that the church benefited from slavery, and “that did not sit well with us,” Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton said in the announcement. “Forgiveness and reparations are the beginning steps on a longer process that will help us achieve full reconciliation.”
The Claggett Center, the diocese’s conference and retreat center nestled on 268 acres, features the 19th-century Hasselbach family cemetery and slave gravesite. At least two enslaved African Americans are known to be buried there.
The Diocese of Maryland comprises more than 100 congregations and 23 schools in 10 counties. Sutton has led the diocese since 2008. The Very Rev. Rob Boulter is dean of the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Baltimore.