Phil and Diane Oldham who run the Lions Club organized a "Points of Light" gala on December 8th to bring all the service organizations together. Carolyn Gallaher introduced Mary Lee Berridge who was honored for her many years of service to our Larchmont Mamaroneck community with the first Jack Coughlin Community Service Award.
Carolyn and Mary Lee were also featured in a picture in the Larchmont Ledger with Christine Arrington, Susan Amlicke and Carolyn Chubet. They are part of PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) which held three events this fall to raise scholarship money for young women. Sophie Kent, while not pictured, was active in the fundraising efforts.
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Reflections from Diocesan Convention
by Roxanne Goh
First of all, out of fairness, I need to tell you that you should be beating down Rev. Lisa’s door to ask to go to the Diocesan Convention in 2020. I am telling you this now, because I will definitely ask to go again this coming year and you should have a fair chance to go. It is a not-to-be-missed experience. Ask the vestry. Ask Rev. Lisa. Let them know to count you in. You will see your church in a whole new way.
At Convention, you see clergy in community, not leading their congregations, but as part of a collegial, worshiping congregation of both clergy and lay members. There is camaraderie and a joy of togetherness. Convention reminds us of our broader Episcopal community and helps us be inspired by and join in the efforts of our neighboring congregations. It reminds us that we are called to live lives of love, grace, and compassion - not only with our individual choices - but in community.
You might ask, “What is the Diocesan Convention anyway? And, for that matter, what is the Diocese?” Good questions! St. John’s is a member church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York which encompasses a wide swath of New York State from the urban to the rural, including the boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx, and seven counties - Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam, Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster Counties. Our Diocese maintains its offices at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the upper west side of Manhattan. It is headed by the Right Reverend Andrew Dietsche, our diocesan bishop (sounds like Deet-chee), the Rt. Rev. Allen Shin, suffragan bishop, and the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, assistant bishop, in concert with the Convention, the Standing Committee, and the Diocesan Council - which is to say, our diocese is representative, not just governed from the top down. Our Diocese is both our regional governing body, which can provide guidance as necessary or at the request of a congregation, and coordinates outreach initiatives across the many member congregations in our area.
The Diocesan Convention is both exactly what it sounds like and simultaneously not at all what you would expect. Yes, it’s a two-day, annual convention in which member clergy and lay representatives vote on seemingly dry, but necessary budget and committee appointments. But wait! There’s more! Our Diocese is doing some very important and moving work. In 2019, we passed several resolutions which go to the heart of how we are called to live and which bear on our commitments here at St. John’s. In particular, Convention passed significant resolutions on reparations and the environment and one resolution in support of our own Bishop Mary Glasspool, her spouse, and all married gay bishops. We also watched a two-person play, The Red Altar, about the discrimination and depth of physical violence faced by early Chinese Americans in California. We sang and worshipped together and heard a sermon from our guest, Rt. Rev. Enrique Treviño Cruz, bishop of Cuernavaca, Mexico, and, of course, we heard Bishop Dietsche’s annual presentation to Convention.
Over a three-year period, the diocese has been examining its role and seeking reparation for the sin of slavery. The culmination of this effort will be in 2020 with a Service of Apology, so again, you’ll want to be at Convention for that moment this coming November. At Convention, we passed a long-overdue resolution originally made in 1860 by John Jay II that the Episcopal Diocese of New York denounce slavery and work towards its abolition. In 1860, that resolution was tabled to prevent a vote. Although all slaves in New York had been freed as of 1827 and this resolution was made at the brink of the Civil War, New York ships were still involved in the slave trade. The local economy, various church members, and even churches had owned enslaved people or benefited from their labor and the slave trade. Although this resolution should have been passed over 150 years ago, it’s passage now is not merely a symbolic condemnation of past slavery, but also commits our diocese to work to end human trafficking and modern forms of slavery that continue in our midst even today. In a resolution from the floor, which passed resoundingly, Bishop Dietsche further proposed that the Diocese commit $1.1 million in funds towards reparations for slavery. He cited recent reparations payments announced by Virginia Theological Seminary of $1.7 million and Princeton Theological Seminary of $27.6 million. During 2020, a task force will investigate how this $1.1 million fund should best be applied — whether as educational grants or otherwise. Rev. Dietsche explained,
With these examples in front of me, I began to think about an appropriate level for this resolution, and arrived at 1.1 million dollars, which represents two and a half percent of our endowment. Much smaller, and the resources for significant reparation would be insufficient; much larger, and it might not be something we could do.
We also heard how various diocese churches are investigating their historic relationship to enslaved people. One parish discovered that its structure was built in part by slave labor. The Diocese’s “Black Presence Project” website archives these historic relationships as parishes conduct their specific research. Poignantly, St. James Church in Manhattan recently memorialize its history and debt with a plaque on the church that reads:
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." -- John 8:32
In solemn remembrance of the enslaved persons whose labor created wealth that made possible the founding of St. James' Church, Hamilton Square, 1810.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Convention also addressed the environment by passing a resolution that makes real commitments to impact climate change. New York City has implemented a “Green New Deal” requiring buildings to reduce their carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2030, but excludes houses of worship. Convention voted to meet the city’s target reduction. All Diocese buildings and parishes will need to undertake environmental assessment of their buildings, heating, and cooling to achieve this carbon footprint reduction.
Finally and importantly, our convention passed a resolution that specifically supports our assistant bishop, Mary Glasspool, but also more broadly affirms the acceptance, welcome, and equal treatment due to all gay clergy and their spouses and, by implication, all people whether straight or gay. Many of you may know that the Lambeth Conference of Anglican/Episcopal bishops is held in Canterbury, UK every ten years. Spouses are specifically invited to attend. For Lambeth 2020, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, specifically disinvited spouses of gay clergy — which at the time of the statement referred solely to Bishop Mary Glasspool and her spouse, so this was a very personal action. In it’s opening words, Lambeth’s website describes the conference this way, “The Lambeth Conference is a hugely significant event in the life of the Anglican Church. It brings together all active bishops and their spouses from across the worldwide Anglican Communion – that’s more than 165 countries.” All spouses… except gay couples. Our Diocesan Convention passed a resolution requesting that the Archbishop reconsider the invitation and backing all gay bishops and their spouses, which now number three such couples.
Here is my take-away from Convention, even as we attend to the specific work and mission of St. John’s, we should strengthen our ties within our diocese both with it’s leadership and with other member churches. Our diocese is the next step up in our broader Episcopal community and we can accomplish more together than individually. Convention brought to mind the “Agent of Change” Girl Scout badge that my daughter’s troop earned. The badge is made of three concentric circles working from the individual at the core, to group, to community at the outer ring. We might pray like St. Francis to “make me a channel of your peace,” asking God to help us be an agent of God’s will first in our individual actions, but then in ever widening circles of community. Make me a channel of your peace, your love, your mercy as an individual, but also in concert with others. Convention also reminded me of Paul’s metaphor of the Body of Christ in his first letter to the Corinthians. Our full calling is not just as individuals - a hand, foot, or mouth - but also in communion with one another. We are called to function together as a whole. We have a joint calling and need each other to accomplish it.
The Episcopal church is fortunate to have an organizational structure that provides us continuity, coordination, and guidance without being exceedingly hierarchical. We vote at convention and lay representatives vote right along with clergy. Our Standing Committee is made up half of clergy and half of lay people. That’s pretty notable and significant. Bishop Dietsche stood out in the convention hallway looking at convention table paraphernalia and chatting just like the rest of us lay representatives and clergy — approachable and real. There’s a strength to that sort of culture - organized, but collegial and democratic. Our diocese is doing powerful work both at the parish level and as coordinated by the Diocese. Go to Convention. Take me along too, if there’s room.
Scenes from Advent & Christmastide