Dear Clergy and Laity of the Diocese of New Jersey,
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered at the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases …
Today, Canon Phyllis Jones, Jubilee Officer Canon Clara Gregory, and I drove up to St. Elizabeth’s Church, Elizabeth, where Canon Andy Moore, Fr. Robin Pierre, and the saints of that church joined forces with the New Jersey Department of Health, the City of Elizabeth, and other local partners and opened the doors of the church for free testing and vaccinations as well as other support services. This event was the first of several planned vaccination and testing clinics at our churches organized by our Urban Revitalization Task Force, led by Canon Andy Moore and Canon Karen Moore along with the COVID19 Task Force of Vaccinations and Testing under the leadership of Fr. Marshall Shelly, Rector of St. Peter’s, Spotswood. All of them were present, as well as Catherine Ambos of Christ Church, New Brunswick, a member of the Vaccination and Testing Task Force, Deacon Ted Moore of Grace Church, Plainfield, which will be a future clinic location, and Fr. Toribio Rodriguez, Rector of Iglesia San Jose, Elizabeth, which was also supporting this effort.
Mayor J. Christian Bollwage came to offer his support and to thank Fr. Andy and the people of St. Elizabeth’s for this service to the community. Among the collaborating partners in this endeavor was Trinitas School of Nursing in Elizabeth. Faculty member Laura Moskaluk, MSN, RN, supervised her students as they administered the COVID19 vaccine and interacted with persons who came in off the street for their shots. Observing this “hands-on” learning experience was inspiring. Later, I would find Ms. Moskaluk and Canon Andy talking about the possibility of future collaborations in service to the wider Elizabeth community. Praise God!
I went out to the testing area and spoke to the medical personnel, thanking them for being there. Thanking them, too, for their service throughout the pandemic. Several of them had been in the midst of the devastation that marked Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care units at the height of the crisis. They have suffered real shock and injury. We need to keep them and all who have shared similar experiences across the country in our prayers.
One of the great gifts of these kinds of collaborations is meeting exceptional people. This was certainly the case with the opportunity I was afforded to meet Annette Hastings, State Director of I/Q Services and Hot Spot Staffs at the New Jersey Department of Health. Annette has been our primary point of contact and the chief organizer working with us and providing all the resources from the State for this work. I am deeply grateful to her, to Shereen Semple—also of the New Jersey Department of Health—and to their team for all they are doing. And this is just the beginning.
The next COVID19 Vaccine and Testing Clinic at one of our churches will take place on May 18 at St. Mary’s in Pleasantville. This will reach some in the rural farming communities who have not had the same access to vaccines and testing as others. It will also reach populations in Atlantic City with a special outreach to the homeless. It was a joy to see Fr. Hyvenson Joseph, Priest-in-Charge of St. Mary’s at St. Elizabeth’s today, along with Senior Warden Tina Mitchell and Junior Warden Darryl Gunter. They drove the 1-1/2 hours to St. Elizabeth’s to see today’s clinic in action and to receive an “orientation” so they will be ready on May 18 when St. Mary’s, Pleasantville, offers their own clinic.
As I moved around St. Elizabeth’s today, I couldn’t help thinking of Jesus the healer. The work being done today was the work of Christ’s kingdom. Jesus went about towns and villages healing and curing people. Today, his presence was clear among those gathered at St. Elizabeth’s. What a blessing it was.
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend William H. Stokes, D.D.
12th Bishop of New Jersey