Local church to welcome South Sudan archbishop


The Christ Episcopal Church in Gilbertsville will welcome a church official from South Sudan this weekend.

Justin Badi Arama, archbishop of South Sudan, will preach at the annual ecumenical service, an interdenominational assembly of the three churches in Gilbertsville, on Sunday, Aug. 25, at 11 a.m. in Centennial Park.

The relationship between the Episcopal Diocese of Albany and the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and began in 2001 with a mission trip to the Diocese of Maridi, the first of many coordinated in conjunction with the sister Dioceses of Down and Dromore in Northern Ireland, according to Donna Steckline, a deacon at the Gilbertsville congregation.

Steckline likened the relationship to the proverb of the three-strand cord, outlined in Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Local congregants on the mission trips donated supplies, assisted with medical and theological training, building schools and clergy housing and organizing community health projects, Steckline said. Other mission efforts included hosting workshops on peace and reconciliation and facilitating the donation of sewing machines, goats and chickens to women in the area to help the community sustain itself.

The congregation’s “Days for Girls” project provides feminine hygiene projects to girls to allow continued participation in school and daily life, Steckline said.

“For him to come over here and speak to our community is sort of a reverse mission,” she said. “It’s come full circle now.”

Arama was confirmed in the Anglican faith at age 16, ordained as a priest in 1995 and elected the second bishop of the Diocese of Maridi in 2001, according to Steckline. He was elected archbishop in January 2018 and enthroned in April of that year.

“I want so badly for the people here to be inspired by his living faith,” Steckline said. “Where he is, he has to live out his faith.”

South Sudan is the newest country in the world, Steckline said; having seceded from the north in 2011 after more than two decades of civil war. While Sudan is a majority Muslim state, South Sudan is predominately Christian, Steckline said, but members of the faith have faced years of persecution.

Also in attendance will be a few of the “lost boys” of Sudan, who were displaced by the war and resettled in refugee camps, and many of whom later came to the United States, Steckline said.

“We believe we’re all under Christ,” she said. “Whether we’re from South Sudan or the United States of America, we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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