On several occasions recently, I’ve found myself quoting a brief poem, “Don’t Worry” by Mary Oliver, from her book Felicity.
Things take the time they take. Don’t
How many roads did St. Augustine follow
before he became St. Augustine?
While none of us are on the way to becoming St. Augustine, we are all on journeys to become who we are created and called to be, and our congregations and communities and diocese are as well. As much as we may want to get to where we are going sooner rather than later, we will get there in God’s good time, and not before. Some things will move more quickly than we expect, and others (many others) will feel at times frustratingly slow.
I am especially aware that the Diocese of New Jersey is in a season of transition. The episcopal transition is only one aspect of the changes of this season. Many of our congregations are, in significant ways, beginning to fully emerge from the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic. Community events and ministries that were important congregational offerings in the before-times are starting to come back for the first time, and it is (mostly) wonderful. I say mostly because there have been changes. Some of our beloved church members are no longer with us and the community around us is different than it was in early 2020, but it is still so good to be back.
On August 26, I visited the International Food Festival at St. Elizabeth’s, Elizabeth. It was an afternoon of joyful community celebration, with a car show, music, games, and food from around the world. I was struck by the number of people, from St. Elizabeth’s and across the diocese, together with non-Episcopalians, who were there to enjoy the festive atmosphere, the cars, the music, and the celebration of global culture and community. The St. Elizabeth’s festival was a hint of what I think God wants for us—to be places of welcome and joyful celebration, where God’s love is known and shared. We aren’t quite there yet, but don’t worry—things take the time they take.
Another area where things are changing is in the administrative life of the Diocese of New Jersey. You may recall that 2023 is going to be a year of three Diocesan Conventions. We had the Electing Convention on January 28 and the Annual Convention on March 5. At the March 5 Convention, Bishop Stokes shared that we will need a third convention later this year to set the budget for the Diocese of New Jersey for 2024. I had hoped that we would be able to meet on Saturday, November 18. However, having reviewed the budget process with our treasurer and others, it is clear that the steps required to develop and plan for 2024 will take slightly longer. Therefore, the next Diocesan Convention to set the budget for 2024 will take place online on Saturday, December 9, 2023.
Over the next two weeks, I will work with our staff and finance teams, and with the Chancellor and others to formally begin the process toward a December online convention. I wanted to let you know now about this date, and to ask you also to keep November 18 available for a different type of diocesan gathering, an in-person opportunity for connection and celebration.
As we prepare for our next Diocesan Convention, we have some financial challenges to address. Our congregations and our diocese have limited resources and there are many needs in our churches and communities. I do not yet know what the budget will look like, but I am committed to good stewardship of our resources, our people, and our communities. More information will be available soon, and I look forward to what will be, and to what, by the grace of God, we are becoming. Things take the time they take, and we are on God’s journey, together.
The Right Reverend Sally French
Bishop of New Jersey