Election of a Bishop

Profiles in Spirutuality: The Election of a Bishop

While most voters in the country have been focusing the the presidential election of 2016, it’s safe to say the vast majority of church-going Episcopalians on the Eastern Shore are more interested on June 11 of this year when both lay members and clerics will cast their vote on who will be the 11th Bishop of The Diocese of Easton.

Serving the needs of 38 worshiping communities with nearly 10,000 members and served by 70 clergy, the Diocese of Easton has been existence 1868. More importantly, the Diocese has played an active role on the Eastern Shore in some of most pressing social issues of our time, including homelessness, hunger, and human rights.

The Spy was present when the four final candidates made presentations and answered audience questions at the Bishop Election Forum in St. Michaels last night.

The election will take place on June 11 at 10am at Trinity Cathedral, 214 North Street, Easton.

This video is approximately 90 minutes in length

The final four candidates are:

The Rev. Kathryn Andonian is the rector at Church of the Holy Spirit (COHS), which began as a mission church planted by the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania; under her leadership, COHS was received as an independent parish in November, 2010. COHS is a growing, energetic parish that offers a wide variety of ministries that reflect her commitment to the ministry of all the baptized through the creative shared leadership of clergy and laity.

In addition to her ministry at COHS, Kathy is an active leader in the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. She is the President of the Standing Committee and has served as a member of the Commission on Ministry, as Vice-Chair of the Diocesan Council, Chairperson of the Liturgical Commission, Fresh Start Facilitator, and other roles. Kathy is a member of the Board of Directors of the Keystone Opportunity Center. She received her M.Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and completed a year of Anglican studies at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Prior to entering seminary as a second-career student, Kathy enjoyed a first career that began with an undergraduate degree (University of Colorado) and graduate studies (University of Southern California) in the field of gerontology. Her professional career began as a program development specialist for a large health care organization, followed by many years as the legislative director for a large health care association in Sacramento, California, and as the Executive Director of a non-profit health education foundation. She was appointed by the Governor and Mayor to statewide and local boards and organizations. She served as a board member of Episcopal Community Services of Northern California and community development agencies. These professional and volunteer positions provided a strong foundation in strategic visioning, organizational leadership, communications, community outreach, development, and financial management.

Kathy has been married since 1985 to her husband, Marc. They have an adult daughter, Caitlin, who lives in Philadelphia. Kathy is an avid quilter and bird-watcher. They also have four cats and an African Grey Parrot who says “God Bless You” and sings the “Sanctus.”

The Very Rev. Brian Grantz has served as dean of the Cathedral of Saint James in South Bend, Indiana for the past eight years. His path into ministry began shortly after graduating from college, first in a community living and youth ministry program at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then finding employment in the Diocese of Northern Indiana as Diocesan Youth Ministries Coordinator. Following seminary, he first served as curate, then rector of Saint Anne’s Episcopal Church in Warsaw, Indiana for nine years before relocating to post-Katrina Louisiana to serve as rector of Christ Church, Slidell, for two years.

Fr. Brian and his wife, Tamisyn, will celebrate their 30th anniversary of marriage this year. They are parents to three sons – Nathan, Jesse, and Thaddeus – all of whom are in graduate or undergraduate studies at Indiana University, and a daughter – Rose – who is a high-school sophomore.

The Rt. Rev. Santosh K. Marray, 58, serves as the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Alabama, a diocese of 90 congregations, campus ministries, and Camp McDowell. As bishop he shares collaborative and collegial ministry with the bishop, and diocesan staff and leadership. He was Bishop Assisting of the Diocese of East Carolina 2009-2012. From 2005-2008 he was the Bishop of Seychelles, Province of the Indian Ocean, and led the diocese through re-imagination, change, and clergy and laity empowerment. When the diocese returned to sustainability, he returned to his family in the US.

Prior to being elected bishop, he served a small parish in Florida, and multi-church parishes in his native country Guyana and the Bahamas, leading the revitalization of struggling congregations of various sizes. He has also planted new churches and carried out numerous successful capital campaigns. He taught for 10 years in the Bahamas Public School System.

Marray was the Province of the Indian Ocean’s representative on the Anglican Communion Covenant Design Group and was later appointed by Archbishop Rowan Williams as Commissary to the Anglican Communion.

Marray is a convert from Hinduism, the faith of his parents. His passion for Jesus and his Church is undergirded by his conviction that a loving Jesus who came looking for him in a small remote village in South America populated by majority Hindus and Muslims in Guyana deserves his love and devotion.

He was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 1981, and bishop in 2005. He holds a degrees from Codrington Theological College, Barbados; the University of the West Indies, Barbados; General Theological Seminary, New York; the University of Wales, UK, and Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall Divinity School.

Marray is married to Nalini ‘Lynn’ since 1977. They have two grown children, Ingram and Amanda, and a granddaughter.

The Rev. John A. Mennell, a priest in the Diocese of Newark,  is the rector of St. Luke’s in Montclair New Jersey, a diverse, vibrant community of faith that is joyfully seeking and serving Christ.  While serving there, St. Luke’s has more than doubled in attendance and giving and expanded its feeding program, Toni’s Kitchen, to offer more than 52,000 meals each year.  Mennell has led creative evangelical initiatives including Celebrate! (younger children’s worship), Worship Without Walls (outdoor community worship) and Journey with Jesus (diocesan walking pilgrimage). Mennell is president of the Standing Committee, a Trustee of the diocese and is President of the Foundation for the Community of St. John Baptist.

Before moving to New Jersey, Mennell was as assisting priest at St. Michael’s in New York City where he led growth in stewardship and membership. Prior to ordination, he worked for 15 years for Procter & Gamble, specializing in strategic planning, budgeting, team building and human resources.

Mennell was ordained to the diaconate and priesthood in 2005 from the Diocese of Southern Ohio.  He earned his M.Div. from the General Theological Seminary in 2005, and is a 1987 graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he majored in American Studies. Mennell’s hobbies include softball, cooking, travelling and stone carving.

Mennell’s three children Jack, Sarah and Grace are currently in college (University of Virginia, Denison University and Connecticut College) and he is married to The Rev. Dr. Sonia E. Waters a professor of Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Chesapeake College Profiles: The Remarkable Midlife Journey of Kristyn Simpkins

Despite her youthful looks and the not infrequent assumption she is the same age as her younger peers at Chesapeake College, Easton native Kristyn Simpkins waited for twenty years after high school to begin higher education. In between, she had a successful massage therapy practice in Baltimore but eventually returned to the Eastern Shore to provide care for her father after a severe heart attack. She also spent several years recovering from her own serious accident that required years of surgery.

But two years ago, her mother pushed her to go back to school at the ripe age of 36 years old. She enrolled in Chesapeake College’s Liberal Arts and Sciences program and very shortly became part of its highly regarded Honors Program. Two years later, she has become the most successful honors scholar in the history of the College.

As Kristyn awaits word from the University of Pennsylvania’s about her recent application to start a baccalaureate degree program (she has already been accepted at Salisbury University), she sat down with Professor David Harp, who has directed Chesapeake’s Honors program, to talk about the special way in which non-traditional students like Kristyn can thrive and be motivated to complete their work at some of the most academically challenging schools in the country at half the price of a four year experience.

For more information about Chesapeake College’s Liberal Arts degree programs go here

This video is approximately four minutes in length 

Out and About (Sort of): Middletown is Miserable by Howard Freedlander

I’ve written before about my disgust every time I drive through Middletown, DE on my way to Philadelphia. Very recently, I endured this personal misery three times in consecutive days,

I experience Middletown and then always ask myself: why did this nice town become ugly? I see no evidence of rational planning. I ask: why? What were local officials thinking when they destroyed a once pleasant crossroads, surrounded by fertile farms, and replaced it with a mish-mash of residential and commercial development? My questions go unanswered.

As I drive through mismanaged Middletown to reach the fast-moving Route 1 and Route 95, I gird myself for congestion and incoherence. I groan, needlessly.

To prepare myself for the slough through this town, I deliberately snake my way along the pastoral roads of Ruthsburg and Price in Queen Anne’s County. I love the tranquility, the soothing stillness before experiencing the mess called Middleton. I brace myself with a taste of calm.

For full disclosure: I do stop at the WaWa in Middletown. I like the customer service—and the restroom.

I think about the Eastern Shore and the value of productive land preserved by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and effective state initiatives, such as Program Open Space, Rural Legacy and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation programs. I am thankful our state, as well as some counties, have embraced the culture and policies related to sound and sensible land management.

Like others concerned about preserving land and our desirable, reasonably unfettered quality of life on the Shore, I feel grateful to Gov. Hogan and the General Assembly for approving legislation in the 2016 session to restore Program Open Space funding to full and consistent cash funding by fiscal year 2019. Meanwhile, the upcoming two budgets will have a total of $61.5 million in available money diverted (bureaucratic wording for legal thievery) in the past to balance prior budgets. If the POS budget is diverted again, the governor must include a way to restore a third of the cut over each of three successive years.

The operative word is stability. Open space will be preserved without the fear of being used for other purposes during down times. Call it a lockbox of sorts–mostly impervious, but not entirely so to raids by governors anxious to balance budgets by yanking money from land preservation.

However dire the circumstances–and they were mightily so, 2009-2011–I always cringed when land preservation funding fell victim to budgetary shortfalls. Cash was taken, replaced by bond money. Land was preserved. State debt increased.

While I realize that saving land from sometime wanton exploitation by real estate developers (not all) may seem secondary to funding education and social services, I think the long view can easily get lost during economic stress. Keep farmers farming, grow crops instead of houses and preserve a certain degree of peacefulness and a sense of place inherent in a rural environment–that’s a worthy ideal.

So, a taste of Middletown, DE leaves lingering distaste. It represents development gone amuck. Its past charm as a farm center has evaporated.

Land preservation is a sensible strategy. The governor’s support of stability in Program Open Space is a wise investment in the future.

The value lasts, hopefully, for perpetuity.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Spy Eye: The CBMM’s First Community Block Party in Two Minutes

It has often been said that one of the most famous traitors in history has been the weather. That seemed to fit with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s very first community block party on Sunday.

Facing the same dreary weather that the Mid-Atlantic has suffered through for most of the month, the CBMM, perhaps in the same tradition as the working watermen of the Chesapeake, nevertheless didn’t hesitate to open its doors to the community despite the infrequent downpours.

The Spy was on hand to capture the inaugural event of free boat rides, free admission, multiple stages of live performances, food, and local bands, like Kentavius Jones’ ensemble, to remind the community that the CBMM remains committed to serving Talbot County and its families.

This video is approximately two minutes in length

Checking in with Matt Peters on Talbot County’s Diversity

While Matt Peters has only been in Talbot County since 2011, there is a palpable feeling that he has been here forever. And the reason for that is that he seems to be everywhere.

From volunteering to lead multicultural Boy Scout troops to showing up at council meetings waving the flag for the region’s many races and cultures, the director of the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center (ChesMRC) has made it a point to be as ever present on the Mid-Shore creating special programs aimed and both new Americans and our growing number of minority communities calling the Eastern Shore home.

In his Spy interview, Matt talks about the special mission of the ChesMRC and their very specific strategies to reach out young children and teens to prepare them (and their parents) to enter the local workforce with strong language skills and a familiarity with the region’s special services to provide as much opportunity as possible to position them for financial success and leadership roles in the future.

For more information about ChesMRC please go here. These Spy Community Profiles project is supported in part by the United Fund of Talbot County.


Out and About (Sort of): Changed My Mind about this Column by Howard Freedlander

A funny thing happened on my way to my weekly column. I stopped to see the Ruth Starr Rose exhibit, much covered in recent weeks in the The Talbot Spy, at the old Maryland National Guard Armory in Easton.

I then changed my mind after a week of mental planning. I quickly decided to write about this captivating exhibit—created to be inviting, to open the window into a lifestyle known and understood by few of us.

For the past few weeks, I have listened to the Spy’s videos and seen the banners on lampposts on Harrison Street. When I walked into the armory to see the artwork the past Friday afternoon, I thought I would be in and out rather quickly. I was wrong.

What I discovered was that viewing and appreciating Ruth Starr Rose’s poignant paintings of Copperville’s and Unionville’s African-American residents on a rainy Friday afternoon was an interactive experience. Not because of any gadgets that produced a tactile experience. Visitors, mostly white, wanted to talk.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 8.02.42 AMI spoke—mostly listened—as one couple whom I’ve known, but not well, for nearly 40 years described growing up in a segregated Talbot County. The man told me stories of working on farms with his grandfather—and alongside black workers. Come time to eat, this man and his grandfather inevitably sat in the home of the white farm owner, while the African-Americans sat outside. He also told me about serving in the U.S. Air Force with a southerner who formerly belonged to the Ku Klux Klan; this airman was undone by the fact he had to wait in line for his pay, which a black officer dispensed.

My friend’s wife told me about serving in the Navy with an African-American woman. They had lost touch until my friend, unbeknownst to his wife, found his wife’s Navy buddy in New Jersey and helped reconnect the two women. My friend’s wife was elated.

What I discovered during maybe an hour surrounded by the moving Ruth Starr Rose exhibit of oil paintings, prints and photographs was a shared desire by white attendees to talk freely about race relations, on a personal level. No other art exhibit that I have ever visited has prompted the reaction I experienced in a simple, but touching display of people living their lives in a segregated, often biased community.

I looked at the proud faces of men and women captured by the artist’s keen eye and acute sensitivity. I looked with wonder at the illustrations of traditional spirituals. I marveled at artwork depicting black soldiers during World War, often portrayed in an allegorical fashion. I felt particularly moved by soldiers serving a country that treated them as second-class citizens—yet expected them to die for our prejudice-ridden country.

It was these World War II art pieces that prompted the conversation with my friend and his wife about their military service, their relationships with fellow black service-members and their lives in Talbot County. They understood the unfair, demeaning conditions that overhung life in Copperville and Unionville, which still are black enclaves.

I suspect that those who originated and designed the Ruth Starr Rose exhibit in the Easton Guard Armory hoped to stir some soul-searching. As I learned last Friday afternoon, they succeeded famously, if my conversations were any indication.

Perhaps the word “catharsis” is barely applicable. However, the exhibit tinges your soul and compels you to face your prejudice and beliefs.

A funny thing has happened on the way to the end of this column. I like the subject better than what I envisioned. I hope you sense my deep appreciation of the aesthetic and heartrending aspects of the Ruth Starr Rose exhibit.

A brief walkthrough would have been insufficient.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

In Her Element: Talbot County’s Teacher of the Year Annie Mewborn

Annie Mewborn came late to her career in education. With eight years in the military and a college degree in business management, Annie relocated to New Jersey from her native North Carolina to be part of the growing casino industry in Atlantic City, including a stint as one of the first poker dealers. The life of a teacher was not something she was considering.

But after a friend pushed her into taking a teacher accreditation test, which she passed with flying colors, Annie reevaluated her vocational choice and immediately started earning her Master’s degree in learning and technology. And in 2011, she and her son made the long drive from Atlantic City to Easton to join the Talbot County Public School system.

Much has happened in the five years since she came to town. The Gulf War veteran has consistently taken on leadership roles with the Easton Middle School’s Faculty Advisory Committee, Bullying Prevention Committee, as the English Department Chair, as well as club advisor for afterschool programs. Annie is also a member of the District’s curriculum writing and technology teams respectively. In the community, she is a member of the Frederick Douglass Honor Society and a Stop Bullying Talbot school representative.

The Spy caught up with her between classes last week to talk about her approach to teaching and some of her goals as the 2016-17 Talbot County Teacher of the Year.

This video is approximately four minutes in length 

The Dream of Flying


As a boy, I dreamed I might one day fly like superman. He was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. For starters, I thought I’d have a go at flying.

One day I draped a large bath towel around my shoulders as a cape, stood on the radiator of my room, drew my arms over my head, and with an “up, up, and away,” lunged forward. I dropped like a stone onto the bed, bounced once, landed on the floor and broke my arm. I did not enjoy my flight. My mother grounded me even after the cast was removed. My dream of flying came to an ignominious end.

Over a thousand years ago, in Malmesbury, England, a young Benedictine monk named Oliver yearned to fly and was the first man believed to have actually flown. The documentation of his adventure is credible although sketchy. Leaping from a parapet, he flew 690 feet straight down, crashed, breaking both legs, crippling him for life. Oliver had arranged devices like wings on his arms and body. His chronicler, William of Malmesbury, wrote that Oliver thought he failed “because he forgot to put a tail in the back.”

Brother Oliver, severely crippled, never ceased wondering about the mystery of the universe and how it must be to soar among the stars. From his cell, his brothers brought him outside nightly so he might stare upward and wonder at the heavens. He may have failed to fly, but the dream never died.

What is it about the firmament of heaven that awakens yearning, a hunger, a feeling of awe? My guess is that it serves as a metaphor. We yearn to break through the constraints of our lives, to transcend our limits, and be “as free as a bird.”

Only the soul, our ancient forebears thought, was meant to fly. At death, our souls ascended to heaven on a one-way flight. God, they also believed, had assigned only angels and spirits (including witches) an ability to fly. Whether we had any business up there at all made even the boldest adventurers uneasy lest by their pride they’d offend God.

Attempts to fly included using feathered wings, balloons, and kites. In the 16th century, one Chinese man, Wan-Hoo, considered flying by propulsion and secured seven gunpowder rockets to a sedan chair. His servants lit them. The chronicle reads: “Smoke, an explosion, and Wan- Hoo was no more.”

In 1996, I read an essay on the history of flying. I was surprised to learn that the technology for flying was available hundreds of years before Brother Oliver and Wann-Hu ever attempted their flights.

Covering skeletal wooden frames with skins and animal membranes was practiced routinely. Building a glider was feasible. They wanted for the technology only because they looked for the secret of flying in the wrong place. They modeled their efforts watching low flying birds like sparrows. These birds flapped their wings to fly leading the aspiring flyers to believe that flapping wings were the key to flight. They hadn’t looked high enough to study the raptors. Hawks can glide for miles on steadied wings. Oliver’s attempts failed because he set his sights set too low.

Today we’re awash in technological achievements. We have pintles and gudgeons galore – mostly electronic. In years past, dreams of possibilities abounded, but the technology to realize the dreams was lacking. It seems that just the opposite is happening in our day; the technologies are abundant, but our dreams have become limited, even mediocre. We don’t look very high.

I read recently about the planning of the “Hyperloop” by billionaire Elon Musk. According to the Daily Mail, he plans to shoot capsules filled with passengers along a tube at around the speed of sound. Once the technology is worked out it would take just thirty minutes to travel 381 miles from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The technology is just around the corner, but I wonder just what dream is the technology serving? What’s the hurry? I assume the dream is to get us where we’re going much faster. One complaint in my life is the unnerving speed at which everything is happening. Some days I hardly take time to smell flowers.

What’s important in life is an ongoing question: is it more important to reach our destination than it is to live deeply into the experience we have in getting there? It’s curious to imagine, but if the Hyperloop becomes a reality and we could travel that fast, we might get to San Francisco in a flash, but see nothing along the way including any flowers. We’d be traveling in a hermetically sealed tube with no view of the outside and hardly time to converse with fellow travel companions. And if, in that half hour, we were seated next to someone we might chat with, the chances are he’d be on a cell phone or an ipad, two of the crown jewels dreamed up in our electronic age.

Humankind has been dreaming about universal peace and justice for centuries . . . usually after we’ve won a war. The dream fades and we’re back to another war. Maybe we’re not looking high enough.

Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Bidders Get Ready: All Thirty Six Easton Banners at Avalon Auction in Three Minutes

It’s that great time of year! The annual Banner Auction, sponsored by the Avalon Foundation, begins today until Saturday on Dover Street. All lovers of local artist, get ready.

To help potential bidders, the Spy got a sneak preview yesterday of the 36 images up for bid this year.

Local artists participate each year to create pieces of original fine artwork on canvas material impervious to weather. Each banner is an original, one-of-a-kind work of art.

The banners are 30” by 40”.

Banners may be created from a variety of mediums. There have been banners produced in oil paint, acrylic paint, photographic art, mosaics and three dimensional art.

The banners are hung from lampposts in downtown Easton before Plein Air-Easton! in July and remain until April. They are then taken down; the two sides of the banner are separated and cleaned in preparation for the annual auction.

Banners may be bid on by online bidding or at the Banner Auction.

On May 14, 2016 the banners will be auctioned at an exhilarating and entertaining Banner Auction. This event is held in the Waterfowl Festival Building in downtown Easton, Maryland.

The banners are displayed at the Avalon in advance of the auction to allow the public an opportunity to preview them.

The first $100.00 dollars of a banner sale goes to pay for the cost of the banner. From the proceeds, 75% goes to the artist and 25% is used in support of the work of the Avalon Foundation.

For more information, go here


Checking in with Karen Shook: St. Michaels Community Center Present and Future

It is one of the great gifts for Talbot County that so many capable leaders have come to this region and invested so much volunteer time with its nonprofit institutions. And there is no better example of this than Karen Shook’s role with the St. Michaels Community Center for the last six years.

Coming from Washington, DC, where she not only was a well-established and respected news producer but spent eight years on the District of Columbia’s School Board, Karen Shook is well trained in getting things done. That is clearly apparent as one looks at her tenure as a board member and president of St. Michaels most important community service organization.

In her interview with the Spy, Karen talks about the number of ways in which the SMCC plays a vital role in providing recreational and health services to the Bay One Hundred community’s children and adults. She also talks with enthusiasm for the organization’s long-term plans to renovate their existing building and adding more resources for programming, but her first priority is to make the St. Michaels Community Center’s first ever Clambake event, hosting by her and her husband, Langley, former president of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, at there home this weekend.

This video is approximately three minutes in length

For more information on the St. Michaels Community Center Clambake, please go here