Leadership transition for our diocesan ERD efforts
As Episcopal Relief and Development celebrates its 75th year, our local support for The Episcopal Church’s humanitarian relief agency is undergoing a transition this summer, as we bid farewell to diocesan ERD Coordinator Harmon Person, and welcome a new diocesan coordinator, Rob Wendt.
Harmon retired as diocesan coordinator effective June 30, handing over a role that he helped to create and develop over the past 15 years. Under his leadership, Episcopal churches in eastern South Carolina have taken collections and channeled money into ERD efforts aimed at “healing a hurting world.”
Retired after a 30-year career with the Procter & Gamble Company, Harmon and his wife Joyce are member of Grace Church, Charleston, and are the parents of Scott Person, who lives in Texas, and Mary Person, who is Grace’s parish coordinator for ERD.
For several of his 15 years with ERD, Harmon served as the Provincial Representative for Province IV, the area of The Episcopal Church that encompasses 20 dioceses in nine southeastern states. He says that being able to help so many people around the world has been truly rewarding. A highlight was being part of ERD’s Ghana Pilgrimage in 2012. In 2013, our diocese (The Episcopal Church in South Carolina) finished in the upper half of all the 109 dioceses in The Episcopal Church in its contributions to ERD.
One of Harmon’s roles has been to work with ERD representatives in the congregations of the diocese, who raise awareness and support for the kinds of outreach that can be accomplished through ERD. For example, several churches have an “ERD Sunday” about four times a year, whenever there is a fifth Sunday in a month, and also take special collections in times of great need. Harmon was honored this spring at a national ERD conference, where he was named a recipient of the 2014 the Canon Joyce Hogg Award.
“We all owe Harmon an enormous debt of gratitude for all he has done on behalf of The Episcopal Church in this ministry,” says Rob Wendt, who took over as Diocesan Coordinator for ERD on July 1.
“His enthusiasm for the mission of ERD and love of people are hallmarks of his work and life as a Christian, and are a model for us all.”
Harmon handed off his ERD files and materials to Rob in June. “I was immediately impressed with the professionalism and breadth of the ERD organization and programs and with the commitment of our diocese to this ministry,” Rob says.
Rob was raised and confirmed as a Presbyterian at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia. He encountered The Episcopal Church through a summer wilderness camp in North Carolina, and later as a student an Episcopal boarding high school, St. Andrew’s School, in Middletown, Delaware. Rob and his wife Priscilla found Grace Church after their daughter Allison was born; he credits the Rev. Donald McPhail and the Rev. Canon Michael Wright for getting him involved in parish ministry and leadership. Rob has served as vestry member and warden at Grace and has chaired the stewardship and capital campaign committees.
A Charleston attorney, Rob says that in his legal career, representing people whose working careers had been cut short by total disability, he has encountered human suffering on a daily basis. “It has made me very sensitive to the plight of people in need,” he says. “To do this work well, you cannot allow yourself to become hardened by exposure to adversity. It’s important to constantly foster compassion within yourself.”
Rob says that while it’s important to provide tangible assistance to people in need, it’s also important to be a compassionate presence and a friend to those who are suffering. “ERD is based on these same principles I have encountered through my professional life – healing and feeding the needy, both physically and spiritually.”
ERD began in 1940 – many will remember it by its old name, “The Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief.” Its initial mission was to assist refugees fleeing Europe during World War II. Soon after the war, the agency’s efforts expanded to include additional humanitarian assistance, focusing mostly on disaster relief. Over the years its scope and support grew; In 2000, the organization was renamed Episcopal Relief & Development to emphasize both its disaster relief work and its increased focus on integrated community development.
To learn more about ERD, visit episcopalrelief.org.
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