Bishop Provenzano's address to the 150th Convention
"Lord Jesus Christ you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your spirit that we, reaching out our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name. Amen."
- Prayer for Mission BCP.
Before beginning the official address, I want to take just a moment to thank the countless people who have worked so hard to make this convention possible. The entire staff of the diocese, all the members of the committee on Dispatch, and the members of Diocesan Council.
A special thanks goes to Ivette Fernandez-Guzman, Sharon Brown-Veillard and Mother Karen Davis-Lawson.
I thank you all for the sacrifice of time and energy you have given to be an active part of this annual convention. I especially thank your families, loved ones and co-workers for their part in your being here yesterday and today. It is by your generous gift of time and talent and their generous cooperation that we are able to gather in this place to take council for the life and ministry of our diocese. It is here in this gathering, that "One Diocese, One Mission" is renewed and expanded each year.
I ask also this morning to acknowledge Bishop Geralyn Wolf, the resigned bishop of Rhode Island who is now serving as Assistant Bishop of Long Island, and Bishop Daniel Allotey, the resigned bishop of Cape Coast, Ghana, who is now officially serving as Assisting Bishop of Long Island. I am grateful to both of them for their generous and enthusiastic support of our ministry in this diocese, and for the service they give to the people of Long Island. We are fortunate to have them both in our midst.
An obvious reality is that this diocesan convention comes just days after one of the most difficult and contentious presidential campaigns in the history of our nation. Healing and prayer, and reconciliation, will be necessary for our nation to move forward. We, the church, the Body of Christ, are uniquely qualified to be the ministers of this much needed healing.
As members of the church, and specifically this denomination, we have the tools and ability to foster understanding, express justice, and bring about reconciliation if we can but remember who we are in the midst of our communities. The reality is that this past year of horrendous rhetoric, and hate-filled speech was not the product of one person or another. It was manufactured by fear, need, selfishness and unmet, unrealized expectations of everyday people living their lives.
One candidate or the other did not create the canvas upon which the rhetoric was painted, they just took advantage of the materials before them. You and I (the church) must now deconstruct the canvas, gracefully pull down the platform of hate by listening, praying, and caring for the people of God who have for so long believed that they did not matter.
I am so grateful to all of you who took advantage of the Octave of Prayer from Nov 1st through the 8th. I believe it was an important act of the church in the midst of the closing days of the presidential race.
I am especially grateful to Canon Michael Delaney, our diocesan liturgical officer, for providing us with meditations and prayers for each day of the Octave and to Dean Sniffen and the staff of the cathedral for creating space for our prayers and meditations.
Yesterday, with the help of the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission, we began a holy work in this diocese. Beginning to learn our place and voice in the conversations that can unite us, but so often divides us. I am so grateful to Mr. Al Wiltshire and all the members of the Commission for their year-long dedicated work in getting us started yesterday and for their invaluable guidance that will continue in the months and years to come.
Moving from this convention, it is now our task to carry the "tool kit" home to our individual church settings and eventually to the neighborhoods we serve.
Across this diocese we live with and serve over twelve million people. If the church is going to meaningfully address issues of racial justice and foster reconciliation, we have our work cut out for us.
Therefore, as the chief priest, pastor and teacher of this diocese, I am committing us to this work. I therefore charge each bishop, priest and deacon in this diocese to insure that this work commences in every congregation and institution of the diocese.
Within the next week I will send to all rectors, priests-in-charge, and vicars, a pastoral letter, which I am directing to be read at all liturgies on the First Sunday of Advent introducing the use of the tool kit and directing the planning and execution of this holy work on the parish level.
This work will not be a "one off" event. We will not allow ourselves the luxury of "we tried this before in this diocese". We are the most diverse diocese in the country, and live in the midst of some of the most complicated racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity anywhere. This must be our ministry and work for good.
This work will be the measure of our faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can't do this, then we are merely playing at church, and not being the church.
My visitations, and that of our assistant and assisting bishops, will require a report on the process and progress of this justice and reconciliation work in the church and neighborhood. No one gets a pass. No one reports that is NOT "an issue in this setting". You and I know that is just not true.
So let's roll up our sleeves, open our hearts and minds, take some more risks and be the church of Jesus Christ in the midst of God's people. The Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer reminds us that the Mission of the Church is this: "to reconcile all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." I am so excited and grateful that each of you will engage this ministry and that the Diocese of Long Island will serve all God's people in this way.
During this coming year we will journey more deeply into a partnership with Rural Migrant Ministries. Fr. Richard Witt and his team have already been at work in our midst and this year that work will take on more meaningful reality as our efforts to bring the gospel we preach and teach to impact the significant needs of thousands of day workers, farm workers and laborers across the diocese, especially in the eastern towns of the diocese.
It is our plan, in partnership with RMM to create another ministry center at Grace Church, Riverhead, to be the nucleus for program, teaching and assistance to this ever growing population.
Riverhead will be a second such ministry site in the diocese, replicating the work of St. Thomas' in Ammagansett and the faithful and inspiring work of Fr. Gerardo Romo-Gracia and the growing new congregation that has enjoyed the support of St. Luke's, East Hampton and the rest of the Peconic Deanery as Laundry Love, legal aid, brown bag lunches and immigration work have become outward and visible expressions of the church's care for its people.
When we talk about being the church in the midst of God's people, the ministry of RMM in partnership with all of us is essential. One small, but significant measure of the need, and therefore the opportunity for us as the church is the public school demographic.
An example is this: in the East Hampton School district last year over 72% of the children report English as a second language. The surrounding school districts are reporting similar numbers. The day workers, farm workers, and laborers in our midst are working with no benefits, no legal protections, no worker's rights, no health care, sub-standard housing, language and cultural disadvantages. These children of God are living today the nightmare my grandparents, and I suspect many of your grandparents, lived at the turn of the last century and more recently for immigrants from the Caribbean, and parts of Asia and Africa.
Back then, the church built hospitals and schools and created social services for these immigrants who had no safety nets, no government assistance or financial resources to help. Today, our partnership with RMM and with an organization called Safe Passages, who use space in the Mercer School of Theology to provide legal assistance to immigrant families, will help us to live into the fullness of our call to serve Christ in all people. I hope you will join me in support of this effort.
One more word concerning the east end of the diocese: for several years now, OPEC (Old Priests of the Episcopal Church) have served the parishes of Mattituck and Greenport on the north fork with great distinction and faithful pastoral and liturgical care. With both churches now open and the opportunities for ministry development increasing, I believe it's time to try something different.
I am proposing the formation of North Folk Episcopal Ministries as a collaborative (not a yoke or merger) of the two churches. With the enthusiastic support of the parishes, the rectory in Greenport will be prepared to be used as a rectory once again and a search begun for a full-time vicar for North Folk Episcopal Ministries of Redeemer & Holy Trinity. This will give the diocese another full-time ministry in the east end and provide the leadership and support to enhance the ministry of these two strong and stable parishes especially among the ever growing population of the area.
Once again this year the Trustees of the Estate belonging to the Diocese of Long Island fully engaged in support of our ministry. One of the many places this is happening this year is in entering into a partnership with the City of New York to form a separate non-profit in coordination with the Ali Forney Center to enhance the emergency shelter for at risk LGBTQ young adults in Astoria and create low-cost housing for this same population.
The partnership involves an eight million dollar grant from the city and the development of our unused property, once the rectory of St. Andrew's Astoria, to create low-cost apartments for this at risk population adjacent to the church building. It is our hope that while we donate this portion of our property to this project, we will continue to use the church building for ministry and the development of a new congregation. The old rectory building will be razed and a new apartment complex will be built.
This partnership is an example of the trustees repurposing resources to engage new forms of ministry with partners willing to help. In this case the Ali Forney Center and the City of New York, both of whom are trying to find ways to address the needs of over 4,000 homeless youth in the city. 40% of homeless youth in the city identity as LGBTQ. At present there are only 392 beds available which include the 15 beds we provide in the emergency shelter at St. Andrew's. This new project will increase that number by at least 20 beds and provide for the staff and services. This is a good and holy use of resources for real ministry.
Speaking of real ministry, almost every week in parish visitations I remind people that unless we are truly living out the baptismal covenant in our every day lives, we are merely playing at church. It came to my attention several months ago that a member of one of our parishes had heard this message and decided to take it all very seriously.
Mary Mattarella of St. Ann's in Sayville began making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagging them up by the dozens and traveling by LIRR into Penn Station several days a week to provide sandwiches to needy people. Apparently her quiet little ministry plan caught the attention of the clergy and people of St. Ann's and the project has expanded to winter clothing, toiletries, food and other necessary items being trained into Penn each week by teams of people from Sayville.
What a terrific and holy witness to us all and an example of the difference one person could make in real ministry. Something that Mary and the people of St. Ann's might not know is that the Franciscan Friars, right there on 31st Street adjacent to Penn station, have been handing out sandwiches to the needy for the past 86 years.
The fact that they are right there, but Mary and her ministry team never seem to get past the corner of Penn Station without running out of food speaks volumes about the need of God's people and the richness of this witness and good work. Thank you Mary for your example to us all and for your preaching the gospel without using words!
In our name the members of the Episcopal Church Women have taken on a monumental task of providing for children and families at risk across the diocese. Their cooperation with our hospital's effort to provide Christmas gifts and food to families in Far Rockaway and their efforts to support the work of Episcopal Ministries throughout the year are a testament to their faithfulness and vision. Week after week, they meet, they plan, they execute ministry that is meaningful and richly enhance the lives of people throughout the diocese.
The Brotherhood of St. Andrew responded to my call for the development of prison chaplaincy and has been trained and now engage in this important gospel ministry of caring for those in prison, assisting in post-incarceration reentry programs and mentoring to help fight the tragic recidivism that plagues our communities. Sometimes all a person needs to break the downward cycle is a mentor and friend to teach the basics you and I take for granted.
Episcopal Ministries of Long Island, once known as Episcopal Charities and Episcopal Community Services separately, has become the "doing" arm of our diocesan program ministry.
Besides all the support that Episcopal Ministries provides through grants and direct financial support for parish and deanery programs, Ministries is involved in countless programs that bridge our work and the work of other non-profit agencies that provide mentoring, child care, literacy, elder care, and family support.
An exciting and meaningful new adventure for Ministries this year is the North Brooklyn Mobile Soup Kitchen, a work of the North Brooklyn Coalition of Neighbors Helping Neighbors assisted through funding by Episcopal Ministries and Episcopal Health Services. Although we had hoped to showcase the mobile kitchen today by serving you coffee and snacks from the truck during one of our breaks, the production time is taking a little longer than expected and the truck will not arrive for several weeks.
Brochures are available at the Episcopal Ministries table in the display area and Mary Beth Welsh, Fr. John Merz and others are available to answer your questions. This truck is really cool! Not only will it address the immediate needs of people by feeding them a hot meal on the spot, it will provide education, counseling and help coordinate advocacy for the most vulnerable in the community. Once we get this one rolling, I hope at least two more can be considered for use across the diocese.
I believe very strongly that the people who are the members of our congregations are the heart of our diocesan life and ministry. The people are the church, and therefore the church in the Diocese of Long Island are our people. I really believe that to be true.
That said and acknowledged, I would like to ask you all to join me in considering the campus in Garden City upon which sit the Cathedral of the Incarnation, the Mercer School of Theology, Diocesan House, and the Bishop's office as the "heart of the diocese". I would like to refer to the campus as the "heart of the diocese" and therefore live fully into the ecclesiology that we together are the diocese, and our heart is that place in the body in which we are empowered and oxygenated for our ministry together. (I promise not to over use the analogy!)
But I would, in fact, like to introduce the "heart of the diocese" as a place of renewal and transformation to enable and encourage the ministries of all of us. The "heart of the diocese", where liturgy is always done well, and is instructive and innovative and prayerful. The "heart of the diocese", where learning and formation and fellowship are encouraged and supported and grown. The "heart of the diocese" where we gather - all of us - gather and play and pray and work and are fed and cherished and grow. The "heart of the diocese", where we help every part of the body to do the best, provide the most hope and aid, and protect the most vulnerable around us.
To realize this reality the heart must be able to fully function and fully expand, and be healthy. A heart which is in tune and beats in sync with the heart of Jesus. To foster this reality we must expand our vision and create space enough for a fully functioning heart.
Dean Michael Sniffen, the Cathedral Chapter and many others have begun a process to envision how we might best use the space, the grounds, and buildings and the opportunities they all present.
"Incarnation 2020" as it is being called, has begun to take steps to provide plans for the expansion of buildings, the reconfiguration of space, handicapped accessibility, large meeting space, overnight, retreat-like accommodations and technology upgrades that fit the character and style we recognize as us. Each of you and every member of the diocese will be given the opportunity to share your ideas, hopes and dreams in the formation of this plan and the execution of a final project that moves us forward in mission. Look forward to weighing in via electronic survey and the cathedral website. It will take all of us to accomplish this work. It will take our ideas, our money and our patience as the plan evolves. For now keep it all in prayer and look forward to all the ways you can participate.
Knowing that we cannot ask the individual members of our congregations to become excited about such a plan for the development of the "heart of the diocese", when each may already be preoccupied by concerns for the upkeep and maintenance of our individual churches, I have asked the Trustees of the Estate belonging to the diocese (and they have agreed) to provide additional resources for grants to churches who are looking for help in building maintenance. Information regarding access to such grants will be found on the diocesan website under grants and loans.
On the corner of Patchen and Jefferson Avenues in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn a new church and parish center is being built by the people of St. Stephens & St Martin's and each of us. "One Diocese, One Mission" is being realized in a powerful and faithful way as the old church building was lovingly demolished and a decades-long dream is coming true as the parish prepares itself for new ministry, new opportunities, and new people as they watch a new church being built.
It is a testament to the diligent and faithful determination of a people who understand that their sacrifice, stewardship, and vision in cooperation with God's plan will result in steel and bricks forming a new place of worship and ministry for years to come. When we dedicate that church next year, it will be a celebration for all the generations of St. Stephen and St. Martin's people who have waited and prayed and remained faithful. It will be a great day for the parish, the neighborhood, the diocese and the whole church. It will serve as a reminder of what we are called to be and become in the midst of the neighborhoods we occupy. A reminder for each of us to see past ourselves to the future God calls us to engage.
We owe the people of St. Stephen & St. Martin and their rector, Father Audley Donaldson, a debt of gratitude for their example and leadership. As a way of honoring them, and in recognition of his tremendous leadership and care, it is my intention to name Fr. Donaldson a Canon of the Diocese in this coming liturgical year.
As you are all aware this is the 150th Convention of the Diocese, but actually our 148th anniversary of existing as a diocese. Apparently, twice in the history of the diocese our forbearers numbered either electing conventions or special convention and so the 150th convention is not the 150th anniversary. However, the 150th anniversary (which will take place on and around the 152nd convention) will take place in 2018.
Therefore, today, in preparation for what will be an important time in our diocesan life, I am announcing the appointment of two co-chairs of the 150 Anniversary Committee: Ms. Mary Castro, a lay leader from St. Mary's Church in Hampton Bays and Father Keith Voets, the priest-in-charge of St. Alban the Martyr in St. Albans. They together will select members of the committee and begin the work of planning the events of the 150th anniversary celebrations.
The Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, has already agreed to be with us for several days around the anniversary date and convention, to preach and preside during the anniversary Mass and to participate in other special events. I am very grateful to Mary Castro and Fr. Voets for their willingness to serve and share their creative and organizational abilities with all of us.
Throughout this convention the youth and young adults of our diocese have been well represented by the large group of young people who have participated in our discussions yesterday and continue to be a part of the convention today. The ministry to, and with, youth and young adults was the number one priority in the search for a bishop in 2009 and it has remained a priority for all of us ever since.
Canon Myra Garnes has done a tremendous job in not only providing countless opportunities for youth ministry, she has and continues to serve as a guide and mentor to many of our youth across the diocese.
Matt Tees and the staff at Camp DeWolfe have created program and space at our diocesan camp that provide an experience of life in Jesus Christ that transforms the lives of our children, their families and everyone that sets foot on the property in Wading River. Please be sure to visit their displays.
In 2017 we will be celebrating the 70th anniversary of Camp DeWolfe as a ministry of the diocese. Seven separate events are being planned with a keynote event at the Cathedral on June 3rd. It will be a special celebration liturgy and a BBQ reception on the grounds of the cathedral. All of the events are listed on a flyer that is available electronically and at the Camp DeWolfe table in the display area.
Last year Bishop Stephen Miller of Milwaukee came to the diocese and addressed the clergy on Clergy Day regarding the success of the Church Development Institute in the Milwaukee Diocese and in other dioceses that have embraced its training for clergy and lay leaders. CDI, as it is more commonly known, is now in its second year here in the Diocese of Long Island.
41 people representing parishes from across the diocese are a part of this learning process that encourages and enables church leaders to build strong and faithful methods for supporting and sustaining the life, witness, and work of parishes. Mother Liz Tunney is serving as our diocesan coordinator for CDI and she is doing a tremendous job of providing leadership to CDI and being a faithful apostle for the message and method to grow strong parish teams for ministry. I encourage you to speak with Mother Liz and consider sending a team to the CDI trainings.
The building up of strong ministry teams is the focus of what I am about to say as well.
We need to raise up people for discernment for ordination to the diaconate. I am asking the priests and lay people of each parish to prayerfully consider who are the people in your church who are involved in outreach, community organizing, and partnerships with other non-profit agencies? Who are the people in your church community who are the bridges that coordinate the work of the Gospel with the people in need, the services needed, the community programs that we are all proud to support? These individuals are doing the diaconate work of the church and we should consider them for ordination to the diaconate.
Now not every fully engaged member of the church should be ordained, but we need more deacons. People who have shown this leadership and have a servant's heart and will. We don't need anyone who is merely a "sacristy person". You know the individual who has always wanted to be ordained but is not? The one who loves to dress up on Sunday morning and help out? They are great people and very helpful to many parishes! But they are not the servants we are looking to to bridge our ministry with the work of the wider community.
I am calling for a significant increase in the number of deacons in the diocese over the next several years. People who will consider training, formation, and education for ordination as deacons to serve God's people in a bridge ministry that is essential to our presence in every neighborhood and town. These individuals must display a calling to be deacons, be servants to the community in which the church sits. These are not people who would desire to be priests but for reasons too many to discuss here, cannot or will not be priests. Details concerning requirements for aspirants for the diaconate can be found on the diocesan website. Please carefully consider this discernment and calling in the midst of the parish you serve.
Prior to the start of convention, each of you received the Pre-convention Journal by mail. Besides the material contained in the journal that helps to organize our work here, the journal also contains the reports of the ministries, agencies and corporations of the diocese. I ask you to read the reports, appreciate the ever expanding ministry of our diocese, but more importantly I ask you to understand who we are, what we do and why we do it in the name of Christ and in service to all God's people. WE need to be encouragement to each other in this ministry. We need to focus on the positive, life-changing, life-supporting work of the church.
Maybe more than any other time in history we need to celebrate and embrace being the church. And specifically as our Presiding Bishop continues to remind us, "the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement!"
My brother and sisters, the Gospel is being proclaimed and lived boldly, the sacraments are being administered faithfully, and all of God's people are being invited to experience the life-changing, transformative, reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ.
I am so proud to be the bishop of this great and diverse diocese at this moment in its history. We are about doing good and holy things in the midst of the people we are called to serve. So let's keep going! Let's remain faithful to the Gospel and to one another in Christ!
There are people out there to love and care for. We are the church. Be the church. Be God's people: loving, forgiving, reconciling, healing, "...that everyone might come within the reach our Jesus saving embrace". Amen.