Bishop Shin’s Convention Report
November 14, 2014
The following is the text of the report delivered by the Rt. Rev. Allen K. Shin, Bishop Suffragan of the diocese, at the diocesan convention, Nov 14, 2014.
Bishop Dietsche, brothers and sisters in ministry, lay delegates, and other honored guests: I am delighted to take part in this 238th diocesan convention and give my first report as Bishop Suffragan of this great diocese.
I would like to begin by sharing with you an odd incident that happened to me back in September last year during that ominous week called the discernment week. Ten candidates for the Bishop Suffragan were brought together with the search committee at a secret location in the wilderness of Westchester County for spirit-filled and occasional testosterone-filled discernment exercises. In the middle of the closing Eucharist, while I was lost in a meditative prayer, trying to look half way holy and listening to Brother Scott’s sermon, a wasp found its way into the room and began weaving around the candidates. And lo and behold, it landed on me. Foolishly, I tried give it slap. But, its stinging jab was quicker than my hand and this annoying creature stung me just below my right cheek, even drawing a little blood. I have tried not to give it a theological or spiritual exegesis. I have wondered, though, whether this was a part of the search committee’s design for the week. I suppose a wasp was cheaper than a dove? So, the future suffrgan bishop elections could save a lot of time and money by unleashing carefully selected and well trained wasps, preferably trained by the Benedictines, into a room full of candidates and seeing which candidate suffers the most stings.
Since my consecration just six months ago, (Yes, I am still, what they call, a baby bishop innocent, naïve and clueless), my priority has been to get to know the diocese-its congregations and its priests, deacons and lay leaders as well as the staff members of the diocese. And what a delightful and privileged journey it has been! My travels so far have taken me as far west as Warwick and as far north as Rhinebeck and Ulster County. I will be venturing north to Kingston in a few weeks in December. I have even travelled down to Staten Island four times already. Not only did I not need my passport, but also I discovered that even the ferry was free. What a marvelous diocese we live in! One of these trips to Staten Island included a memorial service for the victims of Ebola. Many of you probably didn’t know this. But, Staten Island has the largest number of Liberians outside of Liberia and has a large group of the West African immigrants. So, it was an important ministry and witness by our congregations there to serve and care for that community. “Blessed are those who mourn,” Jesus said, and we were blessed to mourn with those were mourning and grieving. I ask your continued prayers and support for the people of West Africa who are still suffering from the outbreak of this deadly virus.
Since my first parish visitation on the day after the consecration, I have visited 23 churches and have confirmed 71 people and received 10 new members into the Episcopal Church. I have also been invited to four clericus meetings, which allowed me to spend more intimate time with the clergy in their local environments. I even had the privilege of presiding in my first priest ordination service at the Church of St. Ignatius of Antioch. Bishop Dietsche told me, when I began, that I would find the parish visitations to be the best part of this ministry. And indeed, they have been nothing but pleasure and delight for me. I would like to thank the clergy and the vestry leaders of all those churches for their welcome and hospitality and for their faithful engagement in God’s mission in their local communities. I pray that my visitations have brought encouragement and new energy to the people and the congregations I have visited.
Rather than having a geographical oversight, Bishop Dietsche has charged me with the oversight of the Diocesan Council and the Campus and the Young Adult Ministries. I have chaired two Diocesan Council meetings so far and look forward to the continuous work with the Council in visioning and discerning for the mission and ministries of this diocese. The Campus Ministry Committee has recently begun a conversation of visioning a new model of campus ministries, which, I hope, will see an increased Episcopal presence in our college campuses in the northern region of the diocese.
I am also excited to tell you that under the Rev. Mary Cat Young’s care, the Young Adult Ministry has been growing in Manhattan. This summer the ministry was awarded a grant from Province II for its new digital media project. Social media, as you know, is an effective tool of evangelism among young people today. This will take our young adult ministry to a new level of networking and increased visibility.
As you can see from the workshops being offered today in this convention, the Congregational Development Commission with the Rev. Clare Woodley’s leadership has been busy researching and developing new strategies and plans to assist our congregations. I hope that you will take advantage of the tools and the skills for congregational development and stewardship that are offered today. I look forward to the continuing work of this commission under the care of our new Canon for Congregational Vitality, the Rev. Altagracia Perez-Bullard.
The Christian Formation Committee has also been busy at work with a new vision and direction under the Rev. Jacob Smith’s leadership. The committee is planning a day of workshops on Forming our Youth on Saturday December 6th at Christ Church Bronxville. I hope many of you will be able to take part in this event. Next year the committee is planning various workshops and retreats as well as a large scale conference with Nadia Bolz-Weber as the guest speaker.
It is clear to me that the work of the Diocesan Council and of the various commissions and committees needs to be refocused and re-envisioned to parallel the visioning process for the diocese, which will be articulated by Bishop Dietsche in his address tomorrow. This is an exciting time for the life and mission of the Diocese of New York. And I, for one, feel privileged to be part of this new journey, serving God’s mission alongside all of you.
In September, Bishop Dietsche and I participated in the House of Bishops’ meeting in Taiwan. What an inspiring and learning experience that was despite the hundred-degree weather and the near hundred-percent humidity just about everyday we were there! The Episcopal Church’s presence in Taiwan began only after the WW II, providing chaplaincy ministry to the American Episcopalian soldiers stationed there. Today they have about 25 churches, many of which are small and struggling. Despite the challenges, however, what we witnessed were churches and their people focused on and dedicated to God’s mission everywhere we visited. We also heard from the bishops of the Anglican Churches of Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Pakistan about the challenges they face in their respective mission contexts. Particularly moving was the address given by the Primate of the Anglican Church in Pakistan, who told us about the immense challenges and persecutions Christians face under the Islamic Sharia rule of that country. I felt a renewed sense of solidarity and communion and a need for stronger ties with our Anglican brothers and sisters in these Asian provinces of our Communion.
Since being ordained a bishop, the recurring theme of my daily prayer has been to discern my mission as a bishop. What is God calling me to do as Bishop Suffragan of this diocese? In a somewhat unexpected way, two extra activities I happened to participate in this past summer seem to begin to provide some clarity and direction for my mission and ministry.
On the invitation by Carla Burns and the anti-racism committee, I joined a dozen youth and adult chaperons of this diocese in the Jonathan Daniels Youth Civil Rights Pilgrimage in early August. The pilgrimage took us from the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum in Atlanta to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, to Montgomery and Selma and finally to Hayneville, AL, where we marched from the site of Jonathan Myrick Daniels’ martyrdom to the county courthouse where his killer had been exonerated of the murder. There in that courthouse, we worshiped and celebrated the memorial Eucharist for Jonathan Daniels and others who were murdered in that struggle for justice. The sacramental witness to God’s redemptive grace is perhaps the church’s best and the only hope for repentance and reconciliation. One of the most poignant moments for me was to stand in the very cell in which Jonathan Daniels had been jailed the day before he was murdered. I invite you to join me in this pilgrimage next year, because it is the fiftieth anniversary of Jonathan Daniels’ martyrdom. The date for this has been set for August 15th next year.
Then, in the last week of August, Canon Blake Rider, Canon Deborah Tammearu, the Rev. Nora Smith and I participated in a week-long mediation training workshop offered by the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center. All four of us found the skills and the knowledge we learned to be of great value and importance as we have already been engaging in the work of mediation. We would like to make this training available more widely and expand the mediation ministry team in the diocese.
I feel that these two activities in this past summer are nudging me toward the work of justice and reconciliation, the two foundational building blocks of God’s prophetic mission through Christ crucified and, thus, of our Baptismal covenant. How this will manifest more concretely in my personal ministry, I am not sure yet. But, the unfolding mystery of this episcopal ministry has already been exciting and grace-filled for me in just these past six months. And I look forward to the remaining busy journey ahead, as Bishop Dietsche said to me several times on the day of my election, “You and I have a lot of work to do.”
I end by expressing my deep gratitude to Bishop Dietsche for his support and generous collegiality, to all the diocesan staff for their support, and to all of you for your inspiring dedication to God’s mission in the trenches so to speak and for your faithfulness to this body of Christ, the Diocese of New York. Thank you.