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 http://nomorenames.org/) . 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 http://bit.ly/17G6KqU) . 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 http://www.app.com/viewart/20121106/NJNEWS/311060022/ortley-beach-church). 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|