Dear People and Friends of the Diocese of New Jersey,
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
The verse above is from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. Some argue about whether or not Paul actually wrote it. It doesn’t really matter. If he didn’t, it was written by a close follower of his who certainly was part of the Pauline “school.” Of course, the passage fits well with our Diocese of New Jersey framework which understands our congregations as “Schools of Discipleship” and our purpose as one of “forming people as disciples of Jesus Christ to carry out Christ’s mission of reconciliation in the world.” We have received the gift of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. By the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to continue to live our lives in him, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith as we were taught it. As faithful people, our lives are also to overflow with thankfulness.
In this third week of the great Fifty Days of Easter, I find myself overflowing with thankfulness. I am thankful for the continued reports I am hearing of revived life and energy in our congregations. This was certainly my experience as I visited All Saints, Navesink last Sunday to Confirm and Receive persons. It was also my experience as I went to Trinity Church, Asbury Park later that afternoon to Celebrate the New Ministry of Fr. Chase Danford and that congregation. It should be noted that that ministry is not so “new” as Fr. Chase has been at Trinity for nearly two years now. He came in the height of the COVID19 crisis. But he and the people of Trinity have been doing great ministry together since his start and his status was recently moved from Priest-in-Charge to Rector indicating that both he and the people of Trinity are committed to a long term relationship.
I am overflowing with thankfulness for our deacons in the Diocese of New Jersey. Last Saturday, I had an opportunity to spend time with them at Trinity Cathedral for the annual Deacons’ Day. We are blessed with a strong and outstanding corps of committed deacons who live out their servant ministries in an incredibly wide range of ways across the diocese. It was a joy to be with them, to hear what their questions and concerns were, and to share with them my sense of how we have strengthened and empowered the diaconate in this diocese over the past several years. I am thankful for the service of Archdeacons Denise Cavaliere, Ted Foley, Lynn Johnson, and Carol Pepe who are instrumental in assuring that our diaconal program and ministries remain strong.
I am overflowing with thankfulness that as of May 1, The Reverend Canon Joanne Izzo is on-board as Interim Canon to the Ordinary and Transitions Officer. She brings enormous experience and skills to this position which you can read about in my separate announcement about her start that is included in this edition of Good News in the Garden State. Her background makes her a perfect fit for the combined Canon to the Ordinary and Transition’s Officer position.
The determination to refill this joint position at this time came as a result of concern expressed in some quarters of the diocese during pre-Convention hearings that the role of Canon to the Ordinary on my Executive Staff be continued and that it be filled by a clergy person. As we listened, it was clear these concerns had merit and we took extraordinary steps to bring about the re-incorporation of this combined position into both our thinking and into the budget. Combining the positions is necessitated by budgetary considerations. That Canon Izzo is willing to work with us with the understanding that her position is only guaranteed through the first six months of the next bishop’s episcopate is a tremendously gracious gift to me and to us all. It is also a gift to the next bishop.
I am overflowing with thankfulness for Rhonda Jackson and the service she has rendered to us all in the diocese. When Canon Brian Jemmott began his medical leave, I asked Rhonda to take on the temporary position of Acting Transitions Officer. She had been serving as one of our Transition Consultants (those who work one-on-one with congregations during times of transition) for a few years. She had also been working with Canon Rob Droste as part of his Coaching Network.
Even with all this, she had a steep learning curve. Rhonda mastered this and quickly became highly proficient. Moreover, as the length of time she would serve in this capacity kept stretching on without a clear sense of when it would end, Rhonda was gracious and kept on working. Across the diocese many have shared with me their gratitude and expressed how much they have enjoyed working with Rhonda. I am grateful for the professionalism and care she has shown to the congregations and people she has worked with as well as for her conscientiousness as a member of diocesan staff.
During the month of May, Rhonda will be handing over the transition side of the position, including all open processes, to Canon Izzo and will step down at the end of the month. Please join me in giving thanks for all Rhonda has done in service to Christ and our ministry together in the diocese and hold her in your prayers as she discerns how God is calling her to use her many and clear gifts for ministry.
This Eastertide, we all have much for which our thankfulness should be overflowing. May God continue to bless us, guide us, and lead us along the way as we celebrate the risen Christ. Alleluia!
Faithfully yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes
Bishop of New Jersey