Bishop Shin's 2017 Convention Report
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
It is my privilege and honor to address the 241st Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Let me begin by extending my personal welcome to our special guests today, Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester and his wife Roja. Bishop Singh was my mentor bishop in my first three years as Bishop and has been a good friend. I look forward to hearing his words in the Eucharist.
What a privilege it is to work alongside a wonderful group of dedicated colleagues! I would like to thank Bishop Dietsche and Bishop Glasspool for their collegial support and encouragement this past year. It really is a great joy to be part of what I can only describe as the best episcopal team around. I also feel privileged to work with the dedicated team of the Bishop’s staff. Their collaborative team work has been particularly gratifying as we begin to live into the strategic vison we adapted in last year’s Convention. I would like to thank them for their hard work and professionalism and for their patience with me when I fall short.
Last year through the Strategic Visioning Process, the Convention voted to adapt some revised Canons related to the finance and the congregational life of the Diocese. It was moving to see the revised Canons being voted for unanimously. But, the reality of hard work quickly set in among the Bishop’s staff. In fact, this work had already begun in the previous year with the Diocesan Indaba conversations which strengthened the shared life in the Diocese. And the election of the new Chief of Finance and Operations, Esslie Hughes, set in motion the re-examination and reorganization of the finance and the budget. The budget presented before us today reflects the hard work done by the budget committee and the staff of the finance office this past year, and I commend them for the good work they have done, especially Fr. Matthew Mead, Esslie Hughes and Masiel Jordan, our new controller. Rather than being anxious about it, I believe we should see this as an opportunity for a realistic and hopeful new beginning of the Diocese.
Congregations in Strategic Setting
With the adaptation of the Strategic Vision, the new Canon on the Congregations in Strategic Setting was set in motion this year. The Rev. Nora Smith was elected as the Director of Strategic Programs to oversee this transition. Her job is to evaluate and assess the mission areas where diocesan resources may be needed and to support the clergy in those areas by providing programs, information, and consultation. Currently, nine congregations are supported through the Diocesan budget under this Canon. Some of these congregations will be able to find financial independence while some others may need to be supported for a while as they face continued challenges. As we live into this Canon, we will continue to make adjustments and improvements.
Congregational Development Commission
Congregational Development Commission under the leadership of the Rev. Canon Altagracia Perez-Bullard has been very busy, making a difference in many congregations in this Diocese. Over the past three years, 131 congregations have been touched by the programs of the Congregational Development Commission—Renewal Works, stewardship workshops, Crossroads, Fierce Conversations, Clergy Coaches, La Academia Ecuménica de Liderazgo which is the Latino lay leadership academy, First Step Grants, Next Step Grants and Hispanic Ministry Grants. I encourage you to invite Canon Perez-Bullard to preach or talk about congregational vitality to your church.
Christian Formation Commission has gone through some transition under the new chair, the Rev. Michael Bird. The Commission in its budget will include Youth Ministry, Summer Youth Conference, Young Adult Ministry and Cursillo. This allows the Commission to be more robust and brings these formation ministries into mutual accountability and transparency to the Diocesan Council. After a successful Acolytes Festival last year, we organized a Liturgy Festival this year which did not get enough interest. Coupled with the low level of registration and the hurricane disasters on the Caribbean Islands, we decided to cancel the festival and hold a special prayer service for the hurricane victims. Next year we are planning a Christian Formation Festival which will provide resource and workshops on everything formation. The date has been set for October 20, 2018. Put it on your calendar and be in touch with Fr. Michael Bird if you are interested in serving on the planning of the event.
Youth and Young Adult Ministries
Summer Youth Conference at the Incarnation Camp is the longest running youth ministry in this Diocese. I would like to thank the lay and clergy leaders of this program for their commitment to this important ministry. I can tell you that this ministry is important to many young people of our congregations for the nurturing and strengthening of their faith and the development of their leadership skills. The youth are not the future but the present members of our churches. I encourage you to send your youth to this conference next summer.
The Young Adult Network under the care of the Rev. Mary Cat Young has been strong and active. She has nurtured strong lay leaders in this ministry who have organized significant formation and fellowship ministries such as Habitat for Humanity projects, the annual St. Nicholas Day celebration, and Lenten Quiet Day. This ministry is about to get a boost of new energy with the new chaplain for Canterbury Uptown who will begin in January. Please stop by their exhibit table and find out all the wonderful things they are doing. And encourage the young adult members in your congregations to connect with this network.
Episcopal Service Corps
Last year I reported a transition in New York Interns Program at St. Mary’s Manhattanville. This past year the Board elected a new executive director, Judith Douglas, and changed its name to New York Service and Justice Collaborative. The program has just begun accepting new applications for 2018-2019 academic year with a vision to expand it to six more participants at Trinity Church Morrisania next year. Please stop by their table and pick up the new brochure. If you have young persons graduating from college, tell them about this program. This has been a life-changing experience for many young people, some of whom are priests in our diocese.
New Ministry Initiatives
The new Asian ministry, Episcopal Asian Supper Table (EAST), has steadily grown this year to a membership list of 140, many of whom are not necessarily Episcopalians or even Christians. Their monthly meetings bring together 30-50 people with a guest speaker to pray together and share stories of faith and life experiences as Asian and Asian Americans. The mission of EAST is to celebrate the dignity of Asian and Asian-American spirituality and to provide a welcoming space to share stories, seek God, and bridge diverse cultures. I would like to thank its chair, Steven Lee, and the planning committee members for their good work. Visit its Facebook page and the web page on our Diocesan website. If you have Asian members in your church, please tell them about it and encourage them to be connected to this ministry.
House of Bishops in Alaska
The most interesting highlight of this past year for me personally was the House of Bishops gathering in Fairbanks, AK. It was the best House of Bishops gathering in my short episcopal tenure, even with the moose head soup I might add. The bishops were given the opportunity to engage with the frontier mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska. It is a mission field where the harvest is plentiful but laborers are few indeed. We heard the stories of the environmental challenges and the political and economic struggles the Native Alaskan Indians face and deal with on a daily basis. They live a substance living by fishing salmon and hunting moose and caribou as their ancestors have done for ten thousand years. Their survival depends on the land and the environment, which makes the environmental care and stewardship their primary concern. What made it a unique experience was the opportunity for some bishops to visit the native Indian villages by small shuttle planes. I was in a group that visited a small village of Alakaket on Yukon River. The village had been flooded and completely wiped out some years ago due to climate change. The villagers had to move upland to rebuild their homes and their lives. It was humbling to see their resilient spirit in such a hostile environment. It was not only a great learning experience but also a timely opportunity to stand with the vulnerable people of Alaska in the common witness to the stewardship of God’s creation. In turn, they welcomed us into their lives with the generous spirit of radical hospitality. I, for one, will cherish and remember this experience.
“Welcome the Stranger. Stand with the Vulnerable.” Is the theme of this Convention. It goes without saying that this should be at the heart of the mission of the Church. But, given the current social and political climate, it feels critically important to say it out loud and be reminded of the Gospel imperative of this theme.
Recently, we celebrated the Feast of All Saints. The first lectionary reading from the Book of Revelation is St. John the Divine’s vision of the heavenly kingdom. “I, John, looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” If we take the Incarnation seriously, we cannot avoid the challenge this vision is making to us. Can the vision of this heavenly kingdom be established here on earth?
On All Saints Day, I was privileged to represent the Diocese in the Commemorative Eucharist for the Reformation, presided by Bishop Rimbo of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The service was an ecumenical witness to the Christian Unity, with many of the ecumenical represented participating. The most moving part of the service came at the end when Bishop Rimbo addressed each denominational representative with a renewed commitment to ecumenical dialogue toward unity. And the most poignant moment came when Bishop Rimbo addressed the representative of the Moravian Church, acknowledging the Lutheran mistreatment of the Moravians in the past and asking their forgiveness and committing to reconciliation.
There is an important resolution put forth by the Reparations Committee of the Diocese calling us to a period Lamentation over the systemic sin of slavery and racism in this nation. This is the first step of repentance in the journey of reconciliation. Being transformed by the reconciling power of love of Christ to practice the radical hospitality of welcoming the stranger and standing with the vulnerable is at the heart of what the Church is all about. I yearn for the day when the Church on earth may truly be the Church of John’s vision. May God bless all our churches of this Diocese and bless us all to this mission. Thank you very much.