The Rev. Robert Jemonde Taylor
Dear Beloved of God:
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: One God. Amen.
It is with great enthusiasm, a listening heart, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance that I entered the discernment process to select the next bishop diocesan for the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Your profile clearly states where you are as a diocese, where you want to go, and the type of bishop you desire to journey with you. What you articulated in your profile resonates with me.
What drew me to ministry is the desire to walk with people in their journey with God. I see this as being a spiritual companion who can help read life’s events through the gospel lens. It is the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that sustains my ministry. I receive immense joy seeing that resurrection change people’s lives.
Your profile states your desire to call someone as bishop who will “bring the grace of God to bear upon our works of love.” I see myself as one who ministers from the abundance of God’s grace and love. It was as a priest missioner in Dallas, TX where I brought together Latinx, African American, and European American communities, bridging racial, ethnic, and economic divides with prayer and worship. In my current role as rector of Saint Ambrose, Raleigh, NC, I started a ministry that partnered church members with students and administrators at a local Title I elementary school. I helped found a new county wide organization of religious institutions and non-profits to advocate for change in housing, education, and employment.
I fondly remember my three years in New York while a student at the General Theological Seminary and my two year field education site at Grace/La Gracia in White Plains. The Diocese of New York helped shape and mold me to be the priest I am today. You seek someone anchored in faith and rooted in Jesus. Prayer is what sustains me. I look forward to the opportunity to explore this call with you as your discernment process continues with the Holy Spirit’s grace.
The Reverend Robert Jemonde Taylor
ORDINATION IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Deacon: May 6, 2009—The Diocese of Upper South Carolina by the Right Reverend Dorsey Henderson
Priest: November 21, 2009—The Diocese of Dallas by the Right Reverend James Stanton
MINISTRY AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
SAINT AMBROSE EPISCOPAL CHURCH, Raleigh, NC 2012—Present
Spiritual and overall leader of a congregation that consists of 400 parishioners, 140 person average Sunday attendance (ASA), 8 staff members, $500,000 budget; increased budget and giving over $120,000 ■ Worship: Commitment to experiential, engaging worship ■ Christian Formation: Started seasonal meditative quiet days, weekly bible study, adult education forum, curriculum based children/youth education ■ Outreach: Established One Church, One School (OCOS) Ministry with 600 student elementary school; Environmental ministry; Habitat for Humanity; ONE Wake Community Organizing ■ Pastoral Care: Organized communication between 4 ministries to reach parishioners weekly ■ Capital Campaign: Successful $750,000 campaign for building upgrades, new prayer garden columbarium, and church growth/development ■ Environmental Efforts: wetland restoration, facilities ecological footprint upgrades ■ Built strong online worship and social media presence
SAINT MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS CHURCH, Dallas, TX 2009—2012
The Lilly/Fund for Theological Education Transition into Ministry (TiM) Grant Recipient
Missionary/Evangelism Ministry at 7,200 member congregation ■ St. Michael: 20s & 30s ministry director ■ Chaplain,
Jubilee Park—15,000 resident, 62 block neighborhood: Sacraments as evangelism, community organizing and development
■ Chaplain, St. Philip’s School and Community Center
GRACE/LA GRACIA EPISCOPAL CHURCH, White Plains, NY 2007—2009
Field Education Placement
Ethnically diverse, pastoral size congregation representing 19 Spanish speaking countries ■ Started new Saturday Evening Prayer Service
THE CHILDRENS HOSPITAL LOS ANGELES, Los Angeles, CA 2007
Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
400-bed hospital with 80% Spanish speaking patients ■ CPE Project: How Black and Latino/a American Cultures View Sickness and Suffering in the Hospital Setting
THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH, New York, NY 2007
Instructor, High School Age Church School
High school religious education ■ Led 60 Harlem youth in Ignatian spiritual exercise on rural NY retreat ■ Malaria Hysteria Outreach Project—300 mosquito nets and one drinking water well for an African Country
MICHELIN TIRE RESEARCH CORPORATION, Greenville, SC 2003- 2006
Handling Performance Engineer
Michelin Worldwide Leader (Pôle de Compétence), Truck Handling ■ Oversaw internal/external research and communication related to tractor-trailer eighteen wheeled trucks ■ Tire’s impact on vehicle performance
STANFORD UNIVERSITY, Stanford, CA
Dynamic Design Laboratory—Graduate Research Assistant 2001—2003
Autonomous guided vehicle research ■ 18-wheeler rollover prevention research ■ Publication: Safety Performance and Robustness of Heavy Vehicles, California PATH Research Report
Diocese of North Carolina: Standing Committee (2019-2021; President, 2021) ■ Diocesan Council (2012-2018) ■ Nominating Committee Co-Chair for XII Bishop Diocesan (2016-2017) ■ Discipline Board (2013-2017) ■ Diocesan Convention Dispatch to Business (2014-2018) ■ Chartered Committee on History and Archives (2014-2018) ■ Faith and Morals Ministry Chair (2014-2018) ■ Bishop’s Mission Strategies Member (2020-2022) ■ Founder-Diocesan Clergy of Color (2014-Present) ■ Diocesan Lilly Curacy Program Steering Committee (2018-2021) ■ Chair of Business Affairs and Administration (2014-2017)
Diocese of Dallas: One Church, One School Diocesan Ministry (2009-2012) ■ Jubilee Ministries (2009-2012) ■ One Man’s Clothing Closet Outreach (2009-2012) ■ Charter Committee for Christian Formation (2010-2012)
Chair, Raleigh Stormwater Management Advisory Commission [SMAC] (2019-Present) ■ ONE Wake Community Organizing Strategy Team Member (2016-Present) ■ Treasurer, Walnut Creek Stakeholder Flood Mitigation Grant (2022)
- Walnut Creek Park Expansion Advisory Council (2018) ■ Walnut Creek Wetland Community Partnership (2014-2021) ■
Duke Cancer Institute Community Advisory Council (2017-2022) ■ Justice Love Foundation Board (2021) ■ NC State Caldwell Fellows Scholarship Selection Committee (2013-2020) ■ Islamic Center of Raleigh Community Engagement (2017-Present) ■ Mayor’s Commission on Compassion (2018-Present) ■ United Way Philanthropic Initiative (2020-Present)
ANGLICAN COMMUNION EXPERIENCES
International Black Episcopal/Anglican Clergy Conference Design Team and Chaplain (2020) ■ Holy Trinity Anglican Church, St. Lucia, West Indies-Diocese of the Windward Islands (2017) ■ The Anglican Church of South Sudan (2012) ■ The Anglican Diocese of Mexico (2011) ■ The Anglican Communion Compass Rose Society, London, UK (2009) ■ Episcopal/Anglican Province of Alexandria, Egypt-The Anglican Church in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (2009, 2007) ■ St. Philip’s Theological College, Maseno, Western Kenya-HIV/AIDS Orphan Program and Anglican Hospital, church water tower construction (2006–2007) ■ Christ Church Episcopal, Clermont-Ferrand, France (2005) ■ University of Ghana, West Africa, Stanford University Learning Expedition (2001) ■ Christ Church, Oxford University, UK (1997)
WIDER EPISCOPAL CHURCH EXPERIENCES
Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest Board Member and Trustee (2019-Present) ■ Gathering of Leaders Board Member and Treasurer (2017-Present) ■ Consultant for the Office of Black Ministries (2009-Present) ■ Contributor to Sermons that Work (2016-2019) ■ Episcopal Church Foundation Congregational Leadership Initiative (2019-Present) ■ SOUL Conference, Salt Lake City, UT, Design Team Member and Conference leader for 78th General Convention—Office of Black Ministries middle, high school, and young adult spiritual and vocations conference (2015) ■ Called To Transformation, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Curriculum, Contributing Curriculum Writer: Weeklong gathering at the University of the South, Sewanee, TN (2014) ■ Summer Focus @ the Summit: “Walk in Love,” Haw River, NC, Design Team Member and Conference leader—8th-12th grade summer camp experience focusing on issues of injustice, prejudices and power systems and how Christians respond (2014) ■ Love God; Love Neighbor Conferences, Indianapolis, IN, Design Team Member and Conference leader for 77th General Convention—Office of Black Ministries middle, high school, and young adult spiritual and vocations conference (2012) ■ The Rising Stars Experience (RISE), Design Team Member—Rites of Passage Experience from the Office of Black Ministries responding to the national school to prison pipeline trend (2011) ■ Everyone, Everywhere Episcopal Conference, Estes Park, CO, Conference Design Team Member: Global mission conference; 400 participants; Over 50 workshops and presentations, Worship Design Team Leader: Planned seven international worship services ■ Lifelong Christian Formation, Contributing writer to A Lifelong Christian Formation Resource for Black Ministries in TEC (2011)
US Water Alliance/Kresge Foundation Urban Institute Bootcamp, Troy, MI (2019) ■ Industrial Areas Foundation Weeklong Community Organizing Training (2019) ■ Gathering of Leaders (GoL), IL, WA, CA, TX, PA (2011-Present) ■ CPG Planning for Wellness: Diocese of North Carolina (2018) ■ CREDO Conference, Duncan Conference Center, Delray Beach, FL (2015) ■ Franklin Covey Time Management Essentials Course (2017) ■ Louisville Seminary Collaborative Inquiry Training (2016) ■ Race and Christian Practice, Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC (2016) ■ Stewardship: The Basics of Annual Giving: Strategies that Work – Episcopal Church Foundation (2015) ■ Prepare/Enrich Counseling Training (2014)
- Transition into Ministry (TiM) Lilly Conference, Indianapolis, IN (2010, 2011, 2012)
Melpkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, SC (2015, 2022) ■ Twelve Week Ignatian Retreat in the Midst of Life (2020) ■ Inner Room Quarterly Daylong Centering Prayer Retreat, Stoneville, NC (2013-2020) ■ Avila Catholic Retreat Center, Durham, NC (2019) ■ Order of St. Helena, North Augusta, SC (2018) ■ Society of St. John the Evangelist, Boston, MA (2006, 2017)
- Loyola House, Faulkner, MD (2016) ■ Community of the Holy Spirit, NYC (2013, 2014) ■ Angel Abbey, Oregon (2012) ■ Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House, Barrington, IL (2011) ■ Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiú, NM (2010) ■ Aqueduct Retreat Center, Chapel Hill, NC (2009) ■ Vipassana Meditation Center, Shelburne, MA (2008) ■ Mt. Calvary Monastery, Santa Barbara, CA (2007) ■ Taizé Community, Taizé, France (2005) ■ Cursillo, Camp Gravatt, SC (2004)
EDUCATIONAL GRANTS AND PROGRAMS
Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Sabbatical Grant ■ Race, Church, and Theological Practices—Member of a Collaborative Inquiry Five Person Research Team: $90,000 Louisville Institute’s Clergy-Scholar Research Team and Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies to produce a documentary film ■ Henry Luce Foundation $400,000 grant to produce a documentary film on gentrification, race, and Christian practice
SELECTED UNIVERSITY PRESENTATIONS
Faculty, D.Min. Program, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, PA, DM141: Music, Liturgy and Justice: The Risk of Shaping Life Together (2020) ■ Virginia Theological Seminary, The Gathering on Liturgical Formation, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (2020) ■ Stanford Black Alumni Summit Panel on Religion and Spirituality Los Angeles, CA (2019) ■ Stanford University Admission Weekend Presentation (2018) ■ Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, NC State (2016-2019) ■ American Academy of Religion Presentation, In the Basement: Race, Church, and Theological Practices Denver, CO (2018) ■ Introduction to Automotive Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, NC State (2018) ■ NC State SATELLITE Program-Engineering and Rural NC (2017) ■ Austin Presbyterian Seminary, Austin, TX Race and Theological Practice (2016) ■ NC State Lecture, Health Discrepancies in Southeast Raleigh, Hunt Library Series (2014) ■ NC State Social Equity Leadership Conference, Voices from an Urban Wetland: Narrative, Vision, and Praxis (2013) ■ Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX Preaching in the African American Context (2011) ■ The Muslim Jesus, Dallas, TX (2010)
SELECTED COMMUNITY PRESENTATIONS
Presenter, Water Utility Climate Alliance Conference, NYC (2022) ■ Gathering of Leaders, Philadelphia, PA, Divine Revelation as Endarkenment (2022) ■ Carolina Chapter of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, The Theology of Music (2021) ■ Triangle MLK Panel Presenter, Raleigh, NC Love is the Way (2021) ■ Cary Kwanzaa Festival, Imani: Faith (2020) ■ International Black Clergy Conference Presenter, I Want to Be Ready (2020) ■ American Medical Association D.M.D- History of Racism in Medicine (2020) ■ US Water Alliance, Water Rising: Equitable Approaches to Urban Flooding (2020)
- The Conservation Fund, Environmental Justice (2020) ■ Ambrose/Temple Beth Meyer, Pentecost and Shavuot (2020) ■
Rooted in Jesus Conference, ECF/Forma, Atlanta, GA Wrapped in Whiteousness: Worship, Liturgy, and Race; Living the Baptismal Covenant (2020) ■ Kresge Foundation US Water Alliance Conference in Troy, MI, Wade in the Water (2019) ■ Macedonian Ministry, Clinton, NC, Nothing But the Blood (2019) ■ Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, The Darkness Sings: The Church’s Unfinished Symphony with Race (2018) ■ City of Raleigh Museum, A Church on the Move (2018) ■ Justice Love Foundation Panelist, Community Organizing and the Philanthropic Role (2018) ■ Bazzell Creek Ministry Symposium, Baptized in Dirty Water: The Theology of Hip-Hop (2017) ■ Pauli Murray Faith Think Tank Symposia (2017) ■ American Institute of Architects Conference, Raleigh, NC—Urban Disruption and the Equity Challenge (2017) ■ Cary First Christian Church, NC, The Sacrament of Communion (2016) ■ New Communities Conference, Kanuga, NC, Jubilee Ministries as Seeds of Transformation (2014) ■ Yavneh Synagogue, Raleigh, NC Jewish/Christian Dialogue (2014) ■ St. Philip’s Church, Greenville, SC Citywide Black History Month, A Transformed Reality (2012) ■ Traces of the Trade Documentary Screening and Lecture, Dallas, TX (2011) ■ Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture Panel Discussion on Abrahamic Religions (2011) ■ Trinity Episcopal Church, New Orleans, LA-Entering the Almond, Spreading Seeds of Transformation (2010) ■ Called to Serve Episcopal Conference Presenter, Newark, NJ, Jubilee (2010) ■ Drifting Through Life-Dallas, TX (2010, 2011, 2012)
UBE National Conference Opening Eucharist Preacher, Baltimore, MD (2022) ■ Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr, Episcopal
Diocese of New York (2022) ■ Baccalaureate Speaker, Saint Augustin’s University, Raleigh, NC (2022) ■ Baccalaureate Speaker, Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC (2022) ■ Saint Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT-Juneteenth (2022) Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church, Palo Alto, CA (2002) ■ Blessed Absalom Jones, Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey (2021) ■ Blessed Absalom Jones, St. Philip’s Chapel, Voorhees College, Denmark, SC (2020) ■ Medgar Evers Commemoration Service, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, MS (2019) ■ Christ Church Episcopal, Raleigh, NC (2022, 2019, 2017) ■ Temple Beth Meyer Synagogue, Shabbat (2019) ■ Bazzell Creek Baptist Church Revival, Fuquay-Varina, NC (2019) ■ Blessed Absalom Jones, Cathedral Church of St. Paul, Detroit, MI (2018) ■ St. Augustine’s University Chapel, Raleigh, NC (2018) ■ 50th Anniversary Commemoration Service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassination, Raleigh, NC, NC Association of Black Lawyers (2018) ■ Seven Last Words: Good Friday, Christian Faith Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC (2017, 2018) ■ Ascension School Chapel, Cove, OR (2018) ■ Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. Trinity Preparatory School, Orlando, FL (2016) ■ Blessed Absalom Jones, Cathedral of the Incarnation, Diocese of Long Island, NY (2009) ■ Christ Church Episcopal School, Greenville, SC Sermon on a Segway (2006)
SELECTED ARTICLES AND PUBLICATIONS
A Vision for a Resurrected Kingdom on Earth, Root and Vine (2022) ■ Property Tax Relief in Gentrifying Neighborhoods, IAF News (2022) ■ Historically Black Raleigh church emphasizes African American and African culture at its essence, Episcopal News Service (2021) ■ The Brilliant Blackness of the Sanctoral Cycle, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (2020) ■ Icons: One Thousand Painted Prayers, Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices (2020) ■ Christ Beyond the Pale, Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices (2020) ■ Holy Disruption, Disciple Publication, Episcopal Diocese of NC (2019) ■ Unusual Eucharists, Disciple Publication, Episcopal Diocese of NC (2016) ■ The History of the Black Presence at the General Theological Seminary (2009) ■ Ethiopian Orthodox Inspired Evening Prayer (2008)
NBC International ■ The News and Observer Newspaper, Raleigh, NC ■ ABC11 ■ On the Record News Show, NBC WRAL TV5 ■ Black Issues Forum Interview, PBS TV ■ WSHA FM and WAUG AM Radio Interviews ■ Weekly radio segment on KKDA, Dallas, TX ■ WYFF NBC TV4 Interview, Greenville, SC ■ TEC Jubilee Ministry Documentary ■ Jubilee Park Documentary, Experience the Transformation ■ Episcopal News Services
2022 School of Theology Award for Service, The University of the South: Sewanee ■ City of Raleigh Stormwater Community Award (2022) ■ The Rev. Thomas Dropper Memorial Green Congregation Award, Diocese of NC (2022) ■ Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Sabbatical Grant
The General Theological Seminary, NY, NY
Master of Divinity (2009) Cum Laude
Honors Thesis: The African Diaspora at GTS
Stanford University, Stanford, CA
MS in Mechanical Engineering (2002) Concentration: Control of Dynamic Systems
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
BS in Mechanical Engineering (2000) Magna Cum Laude
Baden Powell Spanish Institute, Morelia, MX
Spanish Cultural Immersion Language Program Catholic Liturgy in the Mexican Context
Oxford University, Oxford, England
Curriculum: Shakespeare/Modern British History
- Describe your relationship with Christ and how it shapes your
Jesus is the homeless man sitting on the sidewalk, begging for money when I stepped over him after Communion at a church I attended as a college freshman. His face and voice came rushing to my mind as a senior reading Matthew 25:45, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” I realized that day I recognized Jesus in Communion on the altar; however, I did not recognize Jesus in that man on the concrete.
I have grown spiritually since then with God’s help. Now my relationship with Jesus Christ is rooted in love. Being present to God through daily prayer and scripture reading, regular spiritual direction, and yearly spiritually directed retreats helps me “see God more clearly, love God more dearly, and follow God more nearly.” During the pandemic, I felt an intense feeling of love that I describe as resurrection with an infusion of new life physically, spiritually, emotionally, vocationally, and relationally after I completed an at-home, twelve-week Ignatian retreat. I believe in the importance of having a therapist. My family brings joy and vibrancy to my life. I value friendship and have a strong network of friends who knew me prior to ordination. It is important for me to take my vacation and engage in continuing education each year. These practices keep me healthy.
The transformative power of the resurrection shapes both my relationship with Jesus Christ and my ministry. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ resurrection permeates personal, public, and cosmic realities. Resurrection is essential to ministries I have led bringing transformation to people in recovery, affordable housing, education reform, health and wellness, and workforce development. I see Christ present in the people I serve. I seek to be Christ-like by listening to their needs, taking Archbishop William Temple’s words seriously, that the Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it.
I continue to search for the individual I encountered in my first year of college. Archbishop Desmond Tutu bowed as he greeted people to acknowledge Jesus’ presence in them in the same manner he bowed, acknowledging Jesus’ presence on the altar. The resurrection empowers me to plow through unjust systems and bow to Jesus made present and visible in the Bread and Wine on the altar as well as Jesus made present in the world.
- What is it about our profile that gets you excited and how do you think your skills and experiences are well-suited to serve the Diocese of New York as Bishop Diocesan?
I remember being four years old and playing a game with the bishop following one of his visitations. “What is that?” I asked, pointing to the crozier. “This is a staff shepherds use to care for sheep,” the bishop answered. I imitated being a sheep while the bishop pretended to rescue me with the staff. The shepherd’s rod and staff providing comfort in Psalm 23:4 is part of my prayer meditation. You desire your next bishop and shepherd to “bring the grace of God to bear upon our works of love.” I experience Jesus Christ’s love in my life through worship and prayer, being nurtured by the sacraments. God placed the Diocese of New York as a participant in sharing God’s grace and love in a specific geographic location to sow seeds of resurrection and transformation.
The image that communicates my leadership model is monastic, leading from the center with the community forming concentric circles around me. This image of abbot/abbess is rooted in our Anglican identity. This model places the bishop as one in the midst of our diocesan community, providing a listening ministry. The abbot bishop together with the community discerns the needs and choices for life in the diocese as we journey with Jesus together. I lead from the middle, as one among and with the people. There are times I will need to move and lead from the front. Other times I will need to move back and observe. This is the ministry of active listening and presence, seeing God active in the world.
I have experience in a variety of ministry contexts. A rural and historically Black Episcopal small congregation mission formed me as a child. A similar urban mission in a different diocese sponsored me for ordination. I spent two years in field education at a multi-ethnic congregation. I have served two congregations: a suburban resource size church; and an urban transitional size church. I served as a chaplain to a large, mostly Spanish speaking neighborhood as well as a chaplain at a Black Episcopal elementary school. I am at ease in a variety of settings and find joy in being with and serving God’s people in myriad of contexts. Seeing the range of ministry contexts in the Diocese of New York excites me greatly.
- What new and hopeful perspectives and ideas can you bring to the conversation about church decline that support and encourage long-term solutions?
One priest told me the story of asking the pastor of a different denomination within a stone’s throw of the Episcopal congregation, “Would the community feel the impact if my Episcopal church closed?” The pastor shook his head, “No. They would not even notice.” I envision the congregations in the Diocese of New York being so intertwined and interrelated to the larger geographic communities that the notion of an absent diocese is unimaginable.
The resurrection is central to my Christian identity. Many Christians understand the resurrection as a past event or something that a select group of people can look forward to in the distant future. Few Christians see resurrection as something that should impinge upon the present moment. If called to be your bishop, I would bring an emphasis on the power of the resurrection to all our work together—especially addressing institutional church decline. Average Sunday Attendance, pledges, and membership do not give a complete picture of health. The church is changing, and this represents an exciting opportunity to move into the future in new ways. I will invite the diocese to prayerfully dream and envision what a resurrected Church, justice system, education system, ecology, and community look like.
The Rev. Dr. Wilda Gafney wrote, “The Holy Spirit [is] the manifestation of God that is active in our world, speaking it into life, breathing through it and through us. The Spirit of God is the Breath of God, a mighty wind moving through the world, stirring up holy trouble, fanning the flames of holy passion. When was the last time you got into holy trouble? When was the last time you were caught in the grip of a holy passion?” With this in mind, I will bring a new imagination to the conversation about church decline. NYU professor Dr. Jason King writes about “ambivalent direction” meaning “finding the fall in the ascent, and the ascent in the fall. This is survival.” A new imagination is living in a paradoxical space shaped by the resurrection. This way of thinking and imagining will lead the diocese to look at examples of abundant life within and explore examples of creativity outside the diocese.
- Given the impact of COVID on the life of our ministry, we are curious about how you will pastor our congregations, both clergy and laity.
The acolyte warden at my field education church, Grace/La Gracia, White Plains, NY, often said that the bishop’s chair would explode if anyone but the bishop sat there. The bishop’s chair is an important unifying diocesan symbol. The language of a see, of having an official bishop’s chair, reminds me how important a sitting ministry is. Jesus sat to teach in the Beatitudes. Sitting is a pastoral care posture. While serving as a chaplain, I once entered a hospital room and pulled up a chair to sit beside a mother who recently lost her teenage son and who spoke only Mandarin. We sat silent for one hour because of a language barrier. We communed through silence.
I will pastor the diocesan clergy and laity by active listening and sitting. I will work to provide the spiritual and emotional support clergy need to be healthy. I provided a pastoral support structure by establishing a diocesan Clergy of Color group in 2016 to build community with regular meetings, a yearly spiritual retreat, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. I am a member of a group of clergy who meet quarterly for a day-long retreat of centering prayer, book reflection, scripture reading, and communal pastoral care. I have used both discretionary and personal funds to provide reminders of God’s grace to clergy. Saint Ambrose recently supported two members in their 20s and 30s in the vocational diaconate discernment process and welcomed three vocational diaconate interns. In addition, we sponsored two members in their 20s to the priesthood. Prayer will guide my preaching, teaching, and vision if called to be your bishop.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” (I Corinthians 12:9) Henri Nouwen wrote that we become effective ministers when we pastor out of our woundedness.
COVID-19 continues to inflict new wounds while unmasking old wounds. Healing begins by acknowledging that life’s messiness, conflict, the unknown, and uncertainty are welcomed places to start. Saint Mary Magdalene visited the tomb, entered a messy, uncertain, unknown, and dangerous space, and encountered the Risen Savior. The type of Christian spirituality that is
helpful during this time is the apophatic or “way of unknowing.” We, like Moses, can release control to God who heals and transforms when Moses in Exodus 20:21 entered the “thick darkness where God was.”
- Social justice is near and dear to the heart of the Diocese of New How has social justice been a part of your ministry? Please give examples.
“See! Jesus looks just like you!” I witnessed an eight-year-old African American parishioner exclaim that while taking the hand of another eight-year-old boy during his first visit to Saint Ambrose. He pointed at an Ethiopian icon depicting all characters as African. It was a profound theological statement that the divine imprint was on this child. I continue to lead the congregation in examining the legacy of white supremacy within the liturgy and church life by paying attention to the images in the church, images in Christian formation material, racialized language around light and dark, the music we sing, and the theologians and illustrations used in sermons.
The biblical notion of justice concerns right relationship. Environmental, health, and educational justice are essential to Saint Ambrose’s identity. The church is in an urban setting near a flood prone creek and wetland where the city dumped raw sewage for decades and then zoned it as an African American neighborhood. Recently, I helped found a community organizing group of nearly 50 religious and non-profit institutions that challenged the construction of a 150-acre complex only 3,000 ft. upstream from the church’s neighborhood. It was a David and Goliath story of working directly with the city’s rezoning process to ensure environmental considerations to mitigate flooding downstream. In addition, the church recently received a national grant to address decades of environmental racism in the community through a three phase-project: an environmental justice podcast; a labyrinth; and a therapeutic garden to address the community’s emotional and mental wellness. The congregation is also responding to gentrification by working with government officials to mitigate the effects of exorbitant property taxes impacting long-term residents. Our congregation responded during the pandemic by delivering thousands of pounds of food and served as a COVID testing and vaccination site multiple times. I forged a relationship between the church and local Title I school across the street with church members serving as readers and mentors. The litanies during the Eucharist feature monthly themes of LGBTQIA+ advocacy, violence against the Black Transgender community, and mental health. The church views violence and homicide as a public health concern and is building relationships with local government to address the effects of gun violence in historically underserved and underinvested communities. The congregation also co-sponsored an event with Raw Tools, watching them transform a handgun into a garden tool based on Isaiah’s vision of beating swords into plowshares.
- A significant part of episcopal ministry is overseeing administration, property, and financial Give some examples of when you have done this kind of work and what you have learned from the work you’ve done.
“Can you see Jesus in the D16 Excel spreadsheet cell?” is the question I posed at the Eucharist that preceded the vestry and finance committee meetings at a church I served. Administration, property, and financial development are about stewardship of people, place, and money. People are the most important resource in any organization. Good listening is key to being a good administrator.
Employees and volunteers are part of a church’s administration team. I use a spiritual gifts inventory and book to help people discern their ministry. I also use Frederick Buechner’s quote as a guiding principle: “The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done.” I believe in using professional resources to help people reach their greatest potential.
My current church has been a multi clergy and multi staff congregation. Understanding a system’s history is essential to understanding the organization to positively affect change. I noticed when I arrived as rector that several previous treasurers served over a decade. I created a one-year staff accountant position to work with the finance ministry and treasurer, helping change the church’s financial software while forging a relationship with a new accounting firm. We began the practice of rotating treasurers by establishing term limits. I recently reorganized the church’s staff for greater efficiency by creating the new position of business manager bringing all the church’s financial management in-house. Creating financial accountability and transparency helped the congregation increase its trust in the church’s financial management. These financial decisions aided in the success of a three-year capital campaign raising nearly twice the church’s annual budget while maintaining strong stewardship pledges. This capital campaign upgraded the building and property while emphasizing ecological improvements. I provide guidance and oversight of the church’s additional property located in the city’s growing commerce district.
I served the diocese for four years as Chair of Business Affairs and Administration that had oversight for the diocese’s multimillion dollar budget. I serve as treasurer of a national Episcopal organization. I also chair Raleigh’s Stormwater Commission and have oversight of a $12MM yearly budget for projects. I am treasurer of a newly created $2.5MM Southeast Raleigh stakeholder flood mitigation grant fund. These experiences continue to teach me that God is generous and people positively respond to God’s generosity.
Interview of the Candidate by Veronica Dagher