Monday, September 16, 2013

Highlights of Week Ending September 8, 2013 – Grace Abounding!

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep….Romans 12:15

On Wednesday morning, September 4, I participated in the No More Names event held in New Brunswick and sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (see .   The No More Names bus left Newtown, Connecticut on June 14 for a journey intended to take it cross country, stopping in towns and cities along the way, and particularly in front of the home offices of congressional leaders.   At each stop, the names of Americans killed since the Newtown Tragedy are being read aloud.  As of Wednesday, September 4th, the number was some 8,700 people.  As I write, the number is 9,028.    
At the No More Names event.

33 Americans are killed each day by guns.   As Bishop Councell and I stated in an op-ed piece which appeared in The Times of Trenton,  common sense gun-reform laws are, “a clear and compelling moral demand of our time and the right course of action for our elected leaders”  (See .  The Reverend Greg Bezilla, Chaplain of Canterbury House at Rutgers University,  The Rev. Marshall Keith Shelly, Rector of St. Peter’s in Spotswood,  Deacon Clive Sang of Trinity Church in Cranford, and our Acting-Diocesan Chancellor, Paul Ambos, Esq. were also present.    

Following  the No More Names event,  Paul Ambos and I had lunch to get to know each other a little better.   We discussed the role of Chancellor and the relationship between the Bishop, the Chancellor and the Diocese.   The Diocese of New Jersey is blessed to have Paul who is a faithful person,  who loves his Lord and his Church, and who is extremely knowledgeable about Canon Law.    

Wednesday  afternoon I returned to Trenton to meet with the Co-Chairs of the Committee on the Diaconate – Archdeacon Vicky Cuff and the Rev. Lynn Johnson as well as with The Rev. Linda Moeller and Canon Cecilia Alvarez to be fully briefed on the diaconate and the School for Deacons in the Diocese of New Jersey.  One of the things that impressed me during the election process was the strength of  the diaconate in the Diocese of New Jersey.  My  hope is that we build on this strength.

Wednesday night, Susan and I had dinner at Freddie’s Tavern in Ewing with Deacon Debi Clark and with Julia Nemec and Arlis Astudillo,  the Co-Chairs of The Youth Council.  Julia and Arlis have been active in Youth Ministry in New Jersey for years and are a delight.  They shared their excitement about the activities they have participated in and were clear that a highlight for them was their participation in General Convention in Indianapolis in the summer of 2012.   These leaders in our church have tremendous gifts to offer.  We must work diligently to find ways to support them more fully and to build a stronger ministry to young adults as they move beyond high school years.  We talked about that too!

On Thursday,  Bishop Councell and I attended two meetings of Clericus.  The first was held at Holy Trinity Church in Wenonah and hosted by their Rector, Fr. Ed Zelley who is also the Dean of the Woodbury Convocation.   The other was held at Holy Trinity Church in Collingswood, where Fr. Mark Chattin is the Rector.  Fr. Chattin is the Dean of the Camden Convocation.    There was energetic conversation about my role as bishop and particular concern about the north-south divide in the Diocese as well as a sense of disconnect between the churches of the south and Diocesan House in Trenton.   This was repeated in all four clergy groups I met with in Camden and Woodbury, and repeated a concern expressed in Tuckerton.     

There was clear support for the idea of strengthening the Convocation system and the role of Deans as a partial strategy to address this disconnect.   The also expressed a genuine hope that they would see me as bishop in their churches more frequently than once every three years.   There was strong recognition of the challenges that small, struggling congregations present to everybody in the diocese and clear hope that the challenge be addressed.   One suggestion made was to mobilize the deacons of the diocese. 

In the Camden Convocation there was particular concern expressed about the poverty and crime of urban areas like Camden and some frustration that as Church we seem only to take “little shots” at this instead of mobilizing the whole diocese and the whole church.   There was a clear recognition that more Hispanic clergy are needed, and also hope that more deacons could be mobilized for service in this and other trouble spots in the diocese.   At present there are no deacons in Camden.

On Friday, I met with Frangelin Pozo who is an active advocate for undocumented college students in New Jersey.  Frangelin is not only the daughter of Fr. Francisco Pozo, she is an adult leader in our own diocesan Youth Ministry.  Her particular concern is to urge the New Jersey Governor and Legislature to allow undocumented students who are residents of New Jersey, and who have been for most of their lives, to be charged in-state tuition rates for their studies.  This is a justice issue.  The vast majority of students who are affected came to this country through no choice of their own.   I support Franglelin in this and am drafting a letter to Governor Christie to support this effort.

On Saturday, September 7, I was among the 25 or so persons who participated in the mandated Sexual Misconduct Awareness Workshop that took place at St. Peter’s Church in Freehold.  This training is required of all clergy and anyone in the diocese who works regularly with children and youth.   I have received this training multiple times.  It is never easy, but it is always important.  It is vitally important that parish leaders have a clear understanding of these matters so that we can be pastorally sensitive and work at preventing misconduct in our diocese, and especially at preventing any incident of child sexual abuse.  Fr. Paul Rimassa is one of our diocesan trainers and did an outstanding job in presenting this difficult material.  Please note, I am in compliance with the requirements of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Jersey.

Welcome cake for me, Happy Birthday cake for Fr. John
After the workshop,  Susan picked me up so that we could drive down to Point Pleasant.   We met Fr. John Thompson-Quartey who had invited me to come and be the preacher and celebrant for a joint service of St. Mary’s, Point Pleasant and All Saints, Bay Head on September 8.  He welcomed us on Saturday evening and gave us a brief tour of that part of the Shore area.   We saw beautiful St. Simon by-the-Sea in Mantoloking,  and also the site of what had been St. Elizabeth’s in Ortley Beach before Hurricane Sandy washed that lovely seasonal chapel into the sea (see  After our brief tour, we were joined by Fr. Neil Turton and his wife Wendy and had a wonderful dinner at the Bay Head Yacht Club.  This was a special treat for me as we summered in Bay Head for five years when I was a teenager.   We lived just up the street from the Bay Head Yacht Club, so it was fun to be back in very familiar territory, although it was also sad to recognize how much damage Sandy had done.

Dedicating the Handicap accessible ramp
Fr. Turton and Wendy lost just about everything they had when the waters from Sandy overpowered the All Saints Rectory.  All Saints Church was also badly damaged.  Thanks be to God, Neil and Sandy have come out of this in good spirits and have rebuilt their lives including living in a home they own in Point Pleasant Beach.  Repairs to All Saints are well underway and the community hopes to be back in its sanctuary before Christmas.  Neil also underwent emergency surgery this summer and is recovering slowly but well.  We were all grateful that he was able to host us for dinner and to be with us Sunday morning.

After Super Storm Sandy, Fr. John and the people of St. Mary’s graciously reached out the people of All Saints.  Both congregations have been worshiping at St. Mary’s since the storm.   It was a great blessing to me to preach and celebrate at a joint service of the two congregations and to rejoice at a true witness to Christian community and grace at work.   It was Fr. Neil’s first Sunday back and Fr. John’s birthday.  I also had the honor of blessing a new ramp that was constructed at St. Mary’s to make the facility handicap accessible.  Grace abounded all over!

After our morning with the people of All Saints, Susan and I drove up to Navesink, where we had been invited by Rev. Deborah Piggins to attend a parish barbecue.  We got a “nickel tour” of the beautiful buildings and grounds in Navesink, enjoyed terrific food and great company and got to hear about the good things going on in that church.    

View from Mount Mitchill Overlook.

Before we left,  we were advised to visit nearby the Mount Mitchill Scenic Overlook which includes Monmouth County's 9/11 Memorial.  As the 12th anniversary of 9/11 would take place later in the week, this seemed a must.   We were glad we did. 

From  the overlook, one can see Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island.  Through binoculars the Statue of Liberty is visible,   The 9/11 Memorial was very powerful with three symbolic components: a timeline walkway to recollect the day’s events; a stone base carved with the names, ages and hometowns of the county residents who lost their lives; and an eagle sculpture with a beam from one of the fallen towers.  We were deeply moved to be there as the anniversary of 9/11 approached.

The 9/11 Monument - The steel girder came from the Twin Towers

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Reflection on September 11th

It is September 11th.  With so many others, I can’t help remembering the events of that awful day 12 years ago.  I was at St. Paul’s in Delray Beach,  Florida.  I had just come out of church following our chapel service for our 3 and 4 year-old Day School students.  I walked into my office.  Someone told me I had a phone call.  I picked it up.  A parishioner was on the other end.   “Chip, did you see what happened?  A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.”  I hadn’t seen.  I didn’t know.  

I had a small portable television in my office and turned it on just in time to witness the second plane plow into the second tower.   A nauseous feeling came over me, as it did over Americans across the country.  This feeling came with the realization that we were not witnesses to a terrible accident.  It was a deliberate attack.   We were witnessing mass murder being committed against citizens of our country.  

My sense of alarm increased.  Our daughter lived in Manhattan.  Susan’s sister, my sister worked in lower Manhattan, right next the Twin Towers.  Our nephew was a New York City Fireman at the World Trade Center Ladder Company.  Where were they?  How were they?  We began making frantic phone calls. 

We did not lose family members that day.  How we grieved for those who did.  It was odd being in Florida in that period.  As native New Yorkers, Susan and I both felt a deep yearning to “go home,” to be with “our people” in a time of grief and sorrow.   Susan and I flew to New York in November of that year.  The plane flew over Manhattan.  Through the plane’s windows, we could see the gaping hole where the Towers had once stood.   We cried.

And so this day, I pray and still cry for those who died, for those who suffer grief still.  I pray as a family member and offer you my deepest sorry and pity.  I also give thanks for those who were the saints of God that day – first responders who went beyond the call of duty, citizens who exemplified Christian sacrifice and love.  It was an awful, terrible day. 

It was also a day filled with grace and glory, not of murderers who thought they were martyrs, but rather, of heroes --- firefighters, police officers and just plain old ordinary people, who reminded us what love looks like in the midst of death.    

A child was born in our parish that day, September 11, 2001 – a sweet, beautiful child to a wonderful parish family.   I went to Boca Community Hospital that afternoon, to give thanks for the birth of this child.  I went and was reminded of resurrection hope.  On September 11, I remember grief and death.  I also remember that birth.  I remember life and hope.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Spirit is at work!

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."  John 3:8

This week, I couldn’t help being aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power at work in various and wondrous ways in the Diocese of New Jersey.  I finished my one-on-one interviews with diocesan staff, including Mary Ann Rhoads who is a “pearl of great price.” Not only is Mary Ann gracious and caring, she is incredibly efficient and has great knowledge of her job as Executive Assistant to the Bishop (and Bishop-elect!) and of the history of the Diocese of New Jersey. Mary Ann also serves as a Board Member of B.E.S.T. (Bishops’ Executive Secretaries Together) an official network of those in the Episcopal Church who hold that unique position.   I can’t express how grateful I am that Mary Ann is in the Executive Assistant’s position in New Jersey! 

Early in the week, there were several meetings that addressed administrative matters including an on-going review with Bishop Councell and Canons Sosnowki, Jones and Alavarez of the parishes and missions of the diocese.  Given that this is a little tedious for them, I am thankful for the gift of their time.  

On Tuesday, I had lunch with former Canon to the Ordinary, Rev. Lee Powers.  Fr. Powers shared with me some of his experiences in that position and his insights about the diocese. This was a great help to me. Thanks, Lee!

On Wednesday afternoon, I met with Fr. Rick Morley and Canon Cecilia Alvarez to plan the Clergy Conference scheduled for November 4 – 6. I had previously shared with Fr. Morley my sense that the concepts and work of Ron Heifetz and the Cambridge Leadership Associates (C.L.A.) around what Hiefetz has labeled “adaptive leadership” are critically important in our contemporary church context. He agreed with me that this would be an interesting and important topic for the Clergy Conference.  I had taken the liberty of contacting Heifetz, who unfortunately is unavailable on the dates of the Clergy Conference.  He did, however, refer me to his highly qualified colleague and associate, Hugh O’Doherty.  O’Doherty teaches at Harvard, is part of C.L.A. and is internationally known.  O’Doherty has also worked with Episcopal Church leaders before. 

Hugh O'Doherty
Fr. Morley, Canon Alvarez and I were able to speak with Mr. O’Doherty in a conference call on Wednesday and firmed up his participation as our conference leader. The Conference will be a basic introduction to Adaptive Leadership.  It will provide all who participate an opportunity to increase our understanding of the concepts and build a common language and understanding about adaptive leadership in the church today.  I am very excited about this and believe it has huge potential to help us face the challenges before us.  Those interested in knowing more about Hugh O’Doherty and the Cambridge Leadership Associates are encouraged to go to their website at  You might also want to read The Practice of Adaptive Leadership:  Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Harvard Business Press - 2009 - Hardback - 326 pages - ISBN 1422105768) or Leadership on the Line:  Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading (with Marty Linsky – (Cambridge:  Harvard Business School Press, 2002).  

On Wednesday evening, Susan joined me and we met with members of the Union of Black Episcopalians (U.B.E.) for a dinner meeting in Matthew’s Conference Room of Diocesan House.   About a dozen members were present.   Annette Buchanan is the Chair and hosted the meeting.  Following dinner, Annette and the other members briefed me on the status of the 11 historic black churches in the Diocese, parish by parish. Five of these churches have no clergy person in place. One is vacant as a result of a retirement, one is about to become vacant as the result of a retirement.  Only two are being served by full-time priests. Moreover, there are not enough black clergy, or clergy of color, especially young clergy, in the pipeline to fill the vacancies. These are challenges that face us across the diocese and across the church.  Finding a way to preserve the tradition and heritage of the historic black churches is critical as they represent a powerful witness to a vital heritage of endurance and faithfulness in the face of persecution and prejudice.   

At one point in the meeting, Annette said to me, “Members of the U.B.E. love their Lord and they love the Church.”  I responded to her, “Even when at times the Church has not treated you well.”  Heads around the table nodded in agreement.  I was grateful for the warmth of the people that attended the meeting, for their honest appraisal of the challenges facing the historic black churches and for their candor. They are seeking greater support from me and the Diocese and its entities in strengthening these churches for mission. 

Congratulations are due to Annette Buchanan.  As of July, she is President of the Union of Black Episcopalians - National.  This is a great testimony to her leadership and commitment not only to this historic organization, but also to Christ and his Church.  Congratulations Annette! 

It is wonderful when members of our diocese participate in the leadership of the wider Church.  During the meeting, Annette announced that the next Annual Meeting of the Union of Black Episcopalians - National will be held June 29 – July 3, 2014 in Atlantic City.  It will be a great honor and privilege for the Diocese of New Jersey to welcome members from around the country.

On Thursday, Canon Sosnowski, Canon Alavarez and I met with Skip and Joyce Vilas. Skip is serving as Interim-Rector at St. Bernards in Bernardsville and has a broad sense of the history of the so-called “Conover Churches,” that is, the cluster of parishes founded or reinvigorated by the Rev. Thomas Conover of St. Bernard's in Bernardsville in the first half of the 20th century.  The other “Conover Churches” include St. Luke's, Gladstone, St. John on the Mountain, Bernardsville, St. Mark's in Basking Ridge and All Saints in Millington. Skip provided us with some of this history and insights about mission and ministry in the area today.  He and his wife Joyce are an energetic ministry team.  We are blessed to have them sharing their gifts and knowledge with us in the Diocese of New Jersey.

Thursday afternoon, Bishop Councell and I met with Canon Connie White and Rev. Canon Jack Belmont who are the Co-Chairs of the Committee on the Priesthood.  This was to bring everyone up to date on the people currently in the ordination process in the Diocese of New Jersey.  Currently there are 14 persons active in the process.  Of those, seven are under 35 years-old.  While we are grateful for God’s call to all persons who are active in the ordination process and are blessed by their gifts, the number of those under 35 is good and important news if we hope to reach the 20-30 generation that is currently missing from the Church.  Bishop Councell has made a particular effort to recruit younger clergy and his efforts are paying off. The Spirit at work!

Debi Clarke of New Jersey and Myra Garnes Schuler of Long Island
Susan and I drove down to Point Pleasant on Thursday evening, to reconnect with the Youth Mission of New Jersey and Long Island doing Hurricane Sandy relief work.  We were warmly welcomed by Fr. John Thompson-Quartey, Rector of St. Mary’s and we joined the group for dinner and their closing Eucharist.  They all looked pretty tired, but indicated they had a great experience.  I sat with a few of them who had spent the previous day repairing a roof in Staten Island.  That’s grueling work!  We should all be proud of this group of our young people who gave up their last week of summer vacation to serve others. Thanks especially to Deacon Debi Clarke and the other adult leaders: Keith & Lucy Adams,  Steve Clarke, Liz Heenan, Robin Henry, Suzanne Jorgensen, Danielle Neals, Frangelin Pozo, Johanna Tineo.  The gift of their time to the youth of the diocese is a great tremendous blessing.

Diocesan staff got together on Friday for a luncheon to celebrate the ministry and birthday of Cynthia McFarland who is a treasure of the diocese.  For health reasons, Cynthia is stepping down from her responsibilities as Canon for Communications.   She will, however, continue to serve part-time as Historiographer and Archivist for the Diocese. She has done phenomenal work in organizing the many records of this diocese’s long history.  We had a lovely lunch and Cynthia’s energy and positive spirit were infectious!   

Without question, the highlight of the week for Susan and me was participating in the Spirit-filled worship of the people of Christo Rey in Trenton.  Having met Father Pozo and his lovely wife Angela during the episcopal election process, and having witnessed his high energy and clear faith and love of the Lord during that process, Susan and knew we were in for something wonderful and special. We were not disappointed! 

In how many churches does the priest dance in and dance out in a spirit of joy to lively wonderful music?  In how many churches do 150 people in the congregation dance up to the offering basket placed in the front of the church, and drop in their offerings gladly singing a song of thankfulness?  Go to Christo Rey, you will see all of this and more.  More important, you will experience the palpable excitement of the Holy Spirit at work!

Connecting the morning’s worship with last week’s observance of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Fr. Pozo related  the Gospel about seeking the lowest place with a message of hope and being sure each person has a dream that we strive for. Following the sermon, he called for the descent of the Holy Spirit and asked any who wanted to, to come forward for anointing with oil and a prayer of blessing.  He invited me to join him in laying hands on the people.  Nearly everyone in the congregation came forward!  Wow!! 
With Fr. Pozo and the people of Christo Rey

After the last person in the congregation was prayed over and anointed, Fr. Pozo knelt in front of me and asked me to anoint him, and I in turn knelt in front of him and asked him to anoint me.  He called forward the congregation who all held their hands over me while he prayed and anointed me.  It was powerful!  At the conclusion of the service, Fr. Pozo invited me to dance down the aisle with him to greet the people.  Susan and I both knew we had been to church!  The service lasted two hours, but no one was looking at their watch.  Everyone was caught up in the Spirit, joy and love of the Lord.  A week ago, I posted an opinion piece that appeared on the CNN website by Jon Acuff titled Should Christianity be so boring? His article began, “No one has ever accused us Christians of being fun.”  Mr. Acuff should attend Christo Rey in Trenton!  It was fun and filled with faith.  Yes, the Holy Spirit moves where it will.  After Church, Susan and I took the Pozo family out to lunch.  It was a great and blessed Sunday!!