As the first southern Sudanese flocked to the polls Sunday to determine whether to secede from the north, hundreds of Episcopalians in a time zone nine hours behind them gathered for vigils in Chicago parishes to pray for the safety of their brothers and sisters during the historic vote.

Should southerners choose independence in the weeklong referendum, millions of refugees from the north are expected to pass through the border town of Renk, where the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago is largely responsible for progress.

“For us this vigil is really praying not just for our partner parish and their safety, but their lives may be changed … for the good,” said the Rev. Shawn Schreiner, rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Oak Park, where parishioners gathered late Saturday before polls opened. “There could be an amazing grace that comes out of all of this.”

Continue Reading on