The summer months often bring a more leisurely pace to life. There is time away from work or responsibilities, family gatherings, and days spent connecting, relaxing, and reflecting. 2023 feels a little different. For me personally, there is the joy and challenge of a new role. There’s a lot to do, and a lot to learn. My days are full, and I am enriched and blessed by this opportunity to be with you as your bishop.
I am starting to get to know people and congregations in new ways. Last weekend, I was at All Saints’, Lakewood, to receive the Rev. Felipe Huamani as a priest. He was ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition and has been an active member of our diocese for more than seven years, learning about the Episcopal Church and preparing to serve once again as a priest. His ministry is a blessing to us, and especially to our Spanish-speaking members. Last Sunday, I had my first episcopal visitation, to St. Peter’s at the Light, Barnegat Light, with confirmation, reception, and reaffirmation of faith for 11 people, followed by fellowship time with the congregation and a conversation with the vestry.
Both occasions were signs to me of the strength and vitality of this diocese. In this new season, God is still calling forward gifted people to serve God’s church, as clergy and lay leaders, as clergy, confirmands, new members of the Episcopal Church, and those called forth to renew and reaffirm their commitment to Jesus Christ and to our community, and I give thanks.
The world needs what we have to offer—welcoming and supportive community, beautiful worship from our beloved Book of Common Prayer, a church that truly welcomes all God’s people to serve and to lead, and so much more. We are not perfect, and we can each acknowledge the times and ways that we fall short as individuals and congregations, but, by the grace of God, what we do matters, and we can make a difference.
My friends, the world needs what we have to offer. In the past two weeks, we have seen an increase in legislation that discriminates against our LGBTQ+ siblings and targets trans people, that takes away protections and enables bias. The ending of affirmative action by the Supreme Court means that people of color will face additional barriers to education and employment. Hate speech is increasingly finding a voice in national conversations. Environmental issues contribute to air quality, heat, and water issues across regions and nations. Global political tensions remain high.
When I talk with my teens and their friends, I hear the anxiety and frustration. I also hear the need for hope and connection. Jesus speaks to these issues, and we can too. The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey stands with those who are in need, the vulnerable, and all those who experience discrimination because of their race, sexuality, or identity. We welcome all God’s children. We stand with you, we see you, and we support you.
There were many things that drew me to the Diocese of New Jersey when I began my discernment more than a year ago. I rejoice in our diversity as a diocese. Our members come from many different backgrounds and cultures, we include people from across the political and economic spectrum, and we have churches and ministries that truly welcome and serve all God’s children. Every congregation has some form of outreach ministry. We have feeding programs and shelters for the homeless, we support nonprofits in our neighborhoods, we fund communities around the world, and so much more. All these ministries show God’s love and care in meaningful ways and bring us closer to each other and to God, even when the forces of the world promote division.
God is at work, calling us to new life and new hope. In this season of new beginnings, I celebrate the ways that God’s people are being called into new ministries. I am grateful for the congregations that are stepping into new ways of serving, connecting with, and advocating for others. I see how strong relationships within communities and between congregations strengthen us and help us to serve, and I give thanks to God for each of you.
The Right Reverend Sally J. French
Bishop of New Jersey