Prepare to Repair: Reparations Commission preps for significant steps in Diocesan history of reconciliation and reparations

Reparations Commission members, back row L to R: Rev. Allison Moore, Dr. Nell Gibson, Rev. Trevor Babb. Front row L to R: Lynnaia Main, Diane Pollard, Carla Burns, Wendy Cañas, Cynthia Copeland (Co-Chair), Bishop Mary Glasspool, Waddell Stillman. Other members not pictured: Rev. Chuck Kramer, Rev. Astrid Storm, Rev. Richard Witt (Co-Chair).

By: Lynnaia Main, Eglise française du Saint Esprit and Reparations Commission member

With a plentiful member turnout and a full plate of opportunities, the Reparations Commission convened in July for two days for its annual summer retreat at peaceful Mariandale Center in upstate New York. On the agenda: frank discussions about marketing and communications needs, plans for workshops highlighting the Commission’s work over the years, pre-Convention rollouts and the upcoming Convention presence in November, an upcoming resolution fleshing out the workings of the Reparations Fund, and conversations about future liturgies for apology and other worship services.

One priority the Reparations Commission determined is our need and desire to share what we have learned thus far about truth-telling, reparations and reconciliation, as we continue to build from this foundation of work. We, and the Diocese, need to reflect on what we think about this process thus far, to inform why and how we should be moving forward. We need a plan for better communicating and sharing stories about our work over the years, and our work to come.

The Commission has organized many activities over the years to enable us to seize this moment: research on slavery in the Diocese; archiving workshops; pilgrimages to sites of historical significance; organized diocesan trips to view the annual Ma’afa commemoration at St. Paul Community Baptist Church in Brooklyn; a presentation on John Jay to Diocesan Convention; launch of a dedicated online blog and communal prayer space; a completely new play, A New York Lamentation, written by a member of the Reparations Commission; film screenings and book clubs; organized retreats to reflect on Apology; “Knee on My Neck” and “Voices Heard” webinar series; compilation of a liturgical toolkit containing worship resources and prayers; and ever more ideas are in the works.

We reflected that our responsiveness to unfolding current events has helped us meet the needs of the Diocese, and influence other groups doing reparations and reconciliation work, evidenced by our members’ encounters at Episcopal meetings and queries from interested groups in other dioceses.

In telling the full story of what we’ve done, we know we need to ride the waves of this hunger for action, even as we recognize the ebb and flow with the current events and needs of our times. Needs in society that we hope to point out, with dignity, for all concerned, in the hopes that the Reparations Fund will fulfill them.

The Reparations Fund and its mission, the criteria for the use of the funds, the design and architecture for its functioning, its system of administration and governance were a significant focus at the retreat and the results will inform the resolution to Diocesan Convention in November. While the resolution will fully present the proposal, we can say now that the Fund will operate according to a reparations lens, with operational principles drawing from the Apology statement, our Four Principles and core values (truth, integrity, justice, transformation), our cyclical programmatic process (Lamentation, Apology, Reparations) and past years’ diocesan resolutions.

An additional focus of our agenda was the preparation for a formal apology and accompanying worship service in future years.

Finally, the Commission watched the film Who We Are, directed by Jeffrey Robinson, and consider the possibilities of bringing screenings to the diocese in 2023.  

As we all prepare for Diocesan Convention 2022 and beyond, the Reparations Commission invites you to join us in prayers most especially for those who live daily the painful legacy of slavery and racism, for the people of the Diocese of New York as we prepare our hearts and minds for Convention, and for the Reparations Commission’s members in their roles to educate, guide and prepare the Diocese for the ongoing work of Lamentation, Apology and Reparations.

We hope you will join us for our virtual Diocesan roll-out in October, at a date to be announced as soon as it becomes available.

Women Witnesses: Contributors to racial justice in the United States named in “A Great Cloud of Witnesses (GCW)”

By: The Reverend Dr. Allison Moore, St Andrew’s, New Paltz and Reparations Committee member

February is African-American history month, thanks to Carter G. Woodson and a host of educators.  March is Women’s “herstory” month, thanks to Russian women who gained the right to vote in February, 1917 and promptly declared March 8 a day to celebrate women’s rights.  Many Episcopal congregations honor African-American history (we can always do better), but in March, the church moves into Lent, and we tend to celebrate women’s herstory primarily with commemorations of saints. 

I want then to focus on women listed in A Great Cloud of Witnesses (GCW) who contributed to racial justice in the United States.  What strikes me is the multitude of avenues we have for promoting the well-being of all women, especially women of color.  I’ve been praying for how to use my particular social location–priest and campus minister in New Paltz, well educated financially secure white woman, disciple of Jesus and lover of God—and my Spirit-given gifts to work towards reparation. All too often we lament our lack of money, knowledge, time, power to make much change.  Those lamentations sell ourselves and God short. People, even those facing the fiercest barriers of structural oppression, have God-given power and an ability to use wherever and whoever they are for greater justice.   The women listed here kept making “a way out of no way.” None of them were perfect, probably limited by personal prejudices and understandings of their time.  That’s a relief, because none of us are perfect either!  We can apply their methods and pray for their faithfulness to our own situations now. 

This year the Reparations Committee is developing criteria for how to use the diocesan Reparations Fund for financial reparations. We have a plethora of models in this book for how to move towards greater racial justice; it’s up to us to imagine what money might do to repair the damage of enslavement and its legacy.  Here is just a sentence or two, often taken almost verbatim from GCW, organized by calendar year—see how this might contribute to daily readings or congregational life! 

  • January 4th: Elizabeth Seton, Founder of American Sisters of Charity, 1821 whose work “intertwined social ministry, education, and religious formation” in orphanages and “schools for needy girls.”
  • January 8th: Harriet Bedell, Deaconess and Missionary, 1969, who “won the respect of igneousous people through her compassion and respect for their way of life and beliefs.” She worked and lived with the Cheyenne, indigenous people in Allakekat in the Artic Circle, and Mikasuki Indians in Florida. 
  • January 9th: Julia Chester Emery, Missionary, 1922, Secretary of Woman’s Auxiliary of the Board of Missions, who traveled across the nation and around the world.  She wrote that she went forth with ”hope for enlargement of vision, opening up new occasions for service, acceptance of new tasks.” 
  • February 5th: Anne Hutchinson (with Roger Wiliams), Prophetic Witnesses, 1643, “outspoken advocate of the rights and equality of women” who challenged religious and civil authorities. 
  • February 11th: Frances Jane (Fanny) Van Alstyne Crosby, Hymnwriter, 1915—her hymns, including Blessed Assurance, expressed personal faith in simple and easily learned tunes. 
  • February 26th: Emily Malbone Morgan, Prophetic Witness, 1937, founder with Harriet Hastings of the Companions of the Holy Cross.  The Companions were a strong force for social justice reform.  They also developed summer vacation houses for working women and their daughters who sought physical and spiritual renewal. 
  • February 28th: Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, 1964, Educator. Anna Cooper organized the Colored Women’s League and the first Colored Settlement House in Washington, DC, and in her book A View from the South challenged the Episcopal Church to do more work towards racial justice.   
  • February 28th: Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, 1904, Educator of African American and Cherokee descent.  She graduated from Tuskegee, faced fierce resistance in initial attempt in Hampton County, South Carolina, to establish a school for rural black children.  She moved to Denmark, South Carolina, and founded the Denmark Industrial Institute which eventually became Voorhees College. 
  • April 8th: Anne Ayres, Religious, 1896 (with William Augustus Muhlenberg), founder of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion and St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. 
  • April 16th: Mary (Molly) Brant (Konwatsijayenni), 1796, Witness to the Faith among the Mohawks, 1796, exerted influence among the British and the Mohawks, in tribal councils and treaty efforts. 
  • April 30th: Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Editor and Prophetic Witness, 1879. Her books and newspaper articles consistently “promoted concern for women’s health, property rights, and opportunities for public recognition.” Her dedication to equal education for women led her to help found Vassar College. 
  • May 7th: Harriet Starr Cannon, Religious, 1896, founder of the Community of St. Mary, whose ministry focused “on the care of women who had endured difficult circumstances” and schools  and orphanages for girls. 
  • May 13th: Frances Perkins, Public Servant and Prophetic Witness, 1965. Her advocacy for industrial safety and labor law reform led Franklin Roosevelt to appoint her Secretary of Labor.  In that role she was a major shaper of New Deal legislation and Social Security. 
  • June 19th: Adelaide Teague Case, 1948, Teacher and first full time female professor at any Episcopal Seminary, ETS in Cambridge.  Her professional work focused on child-centered education.  She was a pacifist, member of Episcopal Pacifist Fellowship, and proponent of women’s ordination. 
  • July 1st: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Writer and Prophetic Witness, 1896, whose writings and anti-enslavement work brought attention to the evils of slavery to the US, Britain, Europe, and Russia. 
  • July 1st: Pauli Murray, Priest, 1985.  And activist, and lawyer, whose research  laid the foundation for Brown v. Board of Education and later Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s work of women’s equality under the law.  She was clear that work for racial justice and women’s justice were intertwined. 
  • July 20th: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Liberator and Prophet, 1902, organized the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY and devoted her life to criticizing the church for its use of patriarchal doctrine and practices to oppress women, and criticizing society for “denying women equal access to professional jobs, property ownership, the vote,” and equal pay.  She hesitated however to embrace racial equality. 
  • July 20th: Amelia Bloomer, Liberator and Prophet,1894, was known for the pants that bear her name and for founding churches, libraries and school houses in Iowa. 
  • July 20th: Sojourner Truth, Liberator and Prophet, 1883, traveling preacher and fierce advocate for rights of African Americans and all women, not only white women (a critique of women’s suffrage movement). 
  • July 20th: Harriet Ross Tubman, Liberator and Prophet, 1913, who helped organize the Underground Railroad and led 300 black Union troops on raid to free over 750 enslaved people, the first American woman to lead troops into military action. 
  • August 18th: Artemisia Bowden, 1969, Educator, led the St. Philip’s Vocational Day School for Colored Children in San Antonio, Texax, for over fifty years, as it became a fully accredited junior college.  Her membership in many social causes intertwined work for racial justice, women’s welfare, and Christian-Jewish dialogue. 
  • September 3rd: Prudence Crandall, Teacher and Prophetic Witness, 1890.  She founded a school for African-American girls in Connecticut that encountered fierce resistance—state law eventually made educating girls from any state other than Connecticut a crime, for which she was tried and convicted.  Harassment continued until she moved to Illinois. 
  • September 24th: Anna Ellison Butler Alexander, 1947, first African American deaconess in the Episcopal Church.  She founded Good Shepherd church in southern Georgia, but the Diocese of Georgia segregated her congregations and refused admission to diocesan convention.   
  • October 10th: Vida Dutton Scudder, Educator and Witness for Peace, 1954, founded a settlement house in Boston for immigrant women, worked with the Society of Christian Socialists, supported the Lawrence, MA textile workers’ strike in 1912, and became a firm pacifist by 1930. 

Here are a few other women I would suggest as models of Christian faith and witness in the struggle for justice in the US, with one of many links for each: who would you add? 

Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955, Educator, activist, government leader in FDR’s administration, founder of many social and political organizations which worked for voting rights for all people. 

Anne Braden 1924-2006, Louisville journalist, organizer, and educator who was among the earliest and most dedicated white allies of the southern civil rights movement. 

Juliette Hampton Morgan,  1914-1957 Memphis resident, librarian, and activist who loudly protested the treatment of African Americans in Montgomery before the bus boycott, and received constant threats and harassment. 

Margaret Morgan Lawrence, 1914-2019, a child psychiatrist, educator, and activist –thefirst African American woman in too many medical arenas, founder of child therapy programs in schools, hospitals, and day care center. 

Ida B Wells-Barnett, 1862-1931, journalist, activist, and researcher.  Her consistent reporting and documenting of lynching, including her critique of white women suffragists who refused to acknowledge its evil, brought her violent attacks, the burning of her printing press, and ridicule in the press. 

Living in the Four Values of Reparations

By: The Reverend Chuck Kramer, Interim at St. Andrew’s Walden and St. Francis of Assisi, Montgomery and Reparations Committee member

The Reverend Chuck Kramer explains, in this text, the Four Values that the Reparations Committee adopted in 2021 to guide its work with the Diocese of New York’s Reparations Fund. The Four Values were presented and adopted at the 2021 Diocesan Convention as a guiding principle for moving forward in reparations.

Over the past few years, the Diocese of New York has been wrestling with its role in the history of slavery and its lasting, sordid, impact on present society.

We have studied the history, lamented our role in it, repented of the evils of both slavery and the underlying racism, and committed to a new way. Now we are working on repairing the deep and lasting damage of this particular form of racism.

But in order to effectively work toward repair, toward meaningful reparation, we need principles or values to guide us. Our number one value, it should go without saying, is love.

As our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry has told us “If it is not about love, then it’s not about God.”

But the Reparations Committee discerned four other values we feel are important to moving forward. They are Truth, Justice, Integrity, and Transformation:

That is, in order for there to be Reparation, we must tell the truth.  In order for there to be real Reparation, we must seek justice for all. In order for there to be Reparation we must pursue it with integrity. And in order for Reparation to truly happen, we must be open to transformation not only for ourselves individually but for society collectively.

You might say, “If it’s not about Truth, Justice, Integrity, and Transformation, then it’s not about Reparation.”

Truth as a Value for Reparation means speaking the truth. It means facing squarely and unwaveringly what was, what is, and God calls us to be. It means not hiding from history or glossing over it but learning from it — what not to do as well as what to do.

Justice as a Value for Reparation is more than simply penalizing those who do wrong  or giving some form of payment to those who have been wronged. Justiceishealing. Justice is not about revenge but about changing the power dynamic away from whiteness as the pinnacle. Justice is getting to Right Relationship in which all people see themselves and each other as equal and equally beloved children of God. And Justice is when we treat each other accordingly.

Integrity as a Value for Reparation means internal consistency. It implies wholeness and honesty. It implies a sense of “What you see is what you get.” Integrity is a crucial value for Reparation because it requires us to know who we are as God’s Beloved Community. It requires us to look deeply at ourselves, our words, and our actions and ensure that they match. It may mean recognizing individual fault, apologizing, and committing to repair the harm. Integrity is a corrective to stubbornness and to being held captive by past teaching or tradition. It is the act of living into our better angels.

Transformation as a Value for Reparation means growing into God’s Truth, into God’s Faith, Hope, and Love. Repair cannot happen until we are transformed as individuals, as community — especially as the Church — and in relationship to God. We recognize that while changing laws and policies may be necessary, this alone will not repair the breach, the deep gash in the tapestry of God’s vision for us. For that to happen, we must be changed. That is why the work of reparation is necessarily a spiritual discipline.  Nobody and no society can be just, equal, and fair unless they want to be — and that will not be possible without a transformation, a conversion, in the hearts not only of individuals, but of our entire society.

These values will guide us as we, the Diocese of New York, seek to repair at least some of the harm caused by slavery and the insidious racism that followed. We know we can’t fix everything, but we are committed to healing what we can.

New Year 2022: pandemic perils, reparations progress

Happy New Year from the Reparations Committee! May God continually bless you and yours with perfect purpose, health and happiness.

Nearly two years after the SARS-COV19 pandemic began, we Reparations Committee members imagine that you, too, are sick of being sick. Despite the tremendous promise and delivery of 2021’s miracle vaccines, the pandemic we longed to see end has…not. Our plans to resume our in-person monthly committee meetings at the Cathedral have been stymied once again. Our work continues remotely. And yet, as our Nehemiah reading from this Epiphany III Sunday reminds us, “do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Zoomed out though we may feel, we are zooming in on our Reparations plans as 2022 unfurls. We are preparing a mini-retreat to propose recommendations for the Reparations Fund and pray that, a year from now, Diocesan Convention 2022 will have endorsed our recommendations. We are recruiting a Committee fellow to gather and share the many stories the Diocese has collected through individuals and parishes. We are considering content for a new DVD or film to complement our excellent 2008 version. We envision a fresh Voices Heard series on voting rights and colorism. You, our diocesan partners, are central to our minds and hearts in all of this, and we hope to hear from you on your ideas for next steps.

Parallel to this work are our plans to continue our ongoing learning and education. Here are a few of the titles we’re considering for our reading – privately, in groups, for future retreats, meditations, toolkits. Please join us, share your own titles, send us your book reviews and reactions, stories of how you are incorporating reading into your reparations reflections:

The 1619 Project.

A Racial and Latinx History of the US.

Begin Again. Eric Glaud.

Caste. Isabel Wilkerson.

How the Word is Passed. Clint Smith.

Just Us. Claudia Rankin.

The Lessons of Ubuntu. Mark Mantobani.

Let’s Talk Race: A Guide for White People.

My Time Will Come. Ian Manuel.

Nothing but Freedom, Emancipation and Its Legacy. Eric Phomer.

Resurrection Hope. Kelly Brown Douglas.

The Second Founding.

The Sum of Us. Heather McGee.

Walk With Me (Bio on Fannie Lou Hamor). Kate Clifford Laursen.

A Personal Testimony: Peace and Wholeness

By: The Rev. Trevor R. Babb, Rector, Christ Church New Brighton, Staten Island, Reparations Committee member

I believe that integral to the work of reparations is the need for peace and wholeness.

Coming out of our recent Diocesan Convention with the theme: “Your faith has made you whole” the word which captured my attention – the word which stayed with me was “wholeness”. It captured my attention because I did not know how broken I was from no vacation for more than two years. It captured my attention because for the first time in two years, my entire family was together in one place and I began to feel, even amidst the energy and attention solicited by my two grand-daughters – Peace and Wholeness.

On Sunday, December 5th, 2021, we light the second candle on the Advent wreath – the candle of PEACE. This will mean more to me this year than in many other years because I feel a sense of real peace and wholeness after a few weeks of needed rest and being with my entire family. Yes, I feel whole and more at peace with me! My advice out of all this is to TAKE VACATION!!! I therefore leave you with these questions for your own reflection:

1) Where in this busy life are you finding peace?

2) What are you doing to stay whole?

3) How is it with you?

Homily Delivered at the 245th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York

By Dr. Nell Braxton Gibson, Reparations Committee former Chair and member

Theme: Your Faith Has Made You Whole

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Luke: 17:15-16

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud
voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’s feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

In the early 1980s a disease called HIV/AIDS hit this country and the world. It was an awful disease, and, in the United States, it began in the gay white community. Some of you may have seen the movie Philadelphia starring Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks. It debuted at the end of 1993 and if you saw it maybe you remember the fear exhibited by the lawyers who worked with the main character, Andrew Beckett, played by Tom Hanks. Andrew Becket was sure he’d lose his job at the law firm where he worked if his colleagues discovered that he was homosexual and HIV positive, so he kept both things a secret. Nevertheless, despite Andrew’s choosing to keep quiet, the other lawyers eventually discovered his secret, and he was fired. Philadelphia is a powerful film which sheds light on what it was really like during the early days of the AIDS pandemic when fear and ignorance rather than information tended to dictate the way people responded to those with the disease.
I had just begun my work as a member of the bishop’s staff in the early 1980s at the start of the world-wide pandemic and I remember that people all over the city had some very unhealthy responses to HIV/AIDS. Many people thought they could get AIDS simply by coming into casual contact with PWAs – people with AIDS. They thought that by touching a person with AIDS they could contract the disease. Over time we all learned more about HIV/AIDS and realized it took very intimate contact with an HIV positive person to transmit the virus, or it took the sharing of a dirty needle after someone with the disease had used it, or we learned that a blood transfusion with blood from an infected person could transmit AIDS or that a pregnant HIV positive woman could pass the virus to her unborn child. But in the early days of the pandemic people knew little of these things and fear, ostracism, loss of a job, loss of health insurance and loss of family and friends were some of the responses toward anyone suspected of carrying the virus or having the disease and toward members of the gay community in general.2
It was during this time that Governor Mario Cuomo appointed Bishop Moore Chairman of the State Commission on AIDS and the bishop decided to take two people from the diocese with him to those early meetings. I was one of the two he chose so I could help him keep track of the information being shared as we gained knowledge from members of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Mills Omally, a priest in the diocese, was the other person chosen. We learned a tremendous amount about HIV/AIDS during those monthly meetings and we shared what we were learning with others.
It was also during those early years that the bishop delivered a convention address on AIDS Comparing people’s fear of it to people’s fear of leprosy. During his address I thought back to my days in East Africa in the early 1960s when I was a member of a group of 15 or so other college students from across the United States who were part of The Episcopal Church’s Venture in Mission project. We were charged with working alongside local people to build the Anglican seminary at Kongwa College in Dodoma, Tanganyika (the country now named Tanzania).
During one of our days off we were taken to a leper colony where doctors explained how that contagious disease was transmitted and why lepers were separated from the rest of society. The patients in that hospital did not speak English for the most part but many of us could see that they understood they were being referred to in what appeared to be unsympathetic terms. They knew, in the same way Andrew Beckett discovered two decades later that they were the subject of comments about a disreputable condition.
Back inside the diocesan convention the bishop was coming to the end of his address. As he closed Mills Omally rose and made his way toward one of the convention floor mics. My heart began to pound because there were not many of us with whom Mills, a gentle, introvert had shared HIS secret. Mills, like Andrew Beckett was a gay man with AIDS and as he approached the microphone, I hoped he was going to offer a resolution on AIDS based on the bishop’s address. But that is not what happened. After identifying himself and thanking the bishop for his remarks, Mills announced that he was living with AIDS. The entire convention went completely silent, stunned by the revelation.
Several seconds passed before a woman delegate, a woman small in stature, by the name of Mary Wilberalski, rose from her seat, crossed the convention floor and threw her arms around Mills. He began to weep; then at least eight or ten other delegates rose from their seats, walked to the mic and embraced both Mills and Mary. And in a truly transcendent moment, the whole body of the convention rose and began a sustained applause. (Some of you here today may remember the sacredness of that moment).
That day at that convention I believe we experienced a moment of grace, a moment in which fear and ignorance were replaced by truth and trust and courage. A moment in which a marginalized person, a gay man with AIDS became like the racially marginalized Samaritan leper and was made whole.3
Both Mills and the tenth leper experienced wholeness through faith. This is a theme we have seen in other stories on healing and wholeness. We see it in Mark 5 with the woman suffering from hemorrhaging who despite having spent all the money she had on doctors, grew worse. But she believed that by just touching Jesus’s cloak she would be healed and when she did she too experienced wholeness.
And it is here that I want to speak about the difference I see between healing and wholeness; because we often use them interchangeably. But I do believe there is a difference between one being healed and one being made whole. Some people may disagree, but by healing I understand a person to be restored to a kind of physical health, as in the case of Jesus restoring sight to the blind. But wholeness as in the theme of this convention – your faith has made you whole – that I see a bit differently. I have a younger sister and several friends, who were stricken with polio as children and who were never cured of the disease, never healed, but they have all experienced a state of wholeness. And while the ten lepers were all healed, I believe the Samaritan also became whole.
A clergy friend once told me that Jesus is always present with the marginalized – with the poor, the sick, the racially oppressed the sexually ostracized, with untouchable lepers, contagious PWAs, the mentally challenged, the emotionally distressed, abused women and children, mistreated immigrants, and maybe even in a portion of the body of a diocesan convention. But when we embrace our faith, when we give ourselves up in ways we may not even understand, the way Mills did, the way Queen Esther did in revealing who she really was, that is when we become whole. Mills was never healed of AIDS, but I do believe he experienced wholeness.
There is something in each one of us that needs fixing that needs to be faced with faith in order for us to experience wholeness. The power in Mills embracing his faith, in rising the way he did and sharing his illness in the manner that he did – in a manner in which he could have been totally rejected – allowed him to make way for his wholeness and for the wholeness each of us was witness to when we rose to our feet. When faith is shared in such a vulnerable way with such honesty, it allows God’s amazing grace to shine through in the place where our leprosy, our hemorrhaging, our AIDS, our illness resides. When people speak with such faith, even in the midst of their fear, they allow God’s grace to shine through just as it did at that convention.
So maybe the gratitude the tenth leper felt in part came, because he embraced his having been made whole; embraced becoming truly who he was meant to be. Maybe what he experienced was as much about becoming whole as it was about being physically healed. And maybe that kind of grace, that kind of witness to wholeness is why a full convention rose to its feet with sustained applause, and like the leper in today’s Gospel said, Thank you, Jesus.

October 27th Reparations Roll-Out: Reparations Committee prepares the Diocese for reflection and action at Diocesan Convention

The pre-Diocesan Convention roll-out on Wednesday, October 27th, 5 – 6 pm, featured Reparations as its theme. The Reparations Committee reported to the Diocese on its work over the past year and upcoming resolutions for decision-making at Diocesan Convention, as well as guided our Diocese in pre-Convention preparatory prayer and liturgy relating to Reparations. Follow the links to view the recording and read the transcript.

Annual Reparations Committee Retreat in Ossining and Sleepy Hollow

The Reparations Committee, from right to left: Lynnaia Main, the Rev. Chuck Cramer, the Rev. Richard Witt, the Rev. Allison Moore, Cynthia Copeland, Wendy Canas, the Rev. Trevor Babb, Carla Burns, Diane Pollard, Nell Gibson, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, the Rev. Astrid Storm

The Reparations Committee of the Diocese of New York plans for the coming year during a 3-day retreat in Sleepy Hollow and Ossining. Many thanks to Waddell Stillman, Committee Member and President of Historic Hudson Valley, who set up an amazing tour featuring the lives of the enslaved men, women and children at historic Philipsburg Manor (which you can read more about here). Look for more about our work here on this blog in the months to come.

Quoted in one of our morning meditations, from a sermon by the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris:

The power behind you is greater than the task ahead of you.

Bishop Dietsche calls for Sunday in Advent designated as Thanksgiving for 13th Amendment

On December 7th, Bishop Andrew Dietsche shared the letter below with the people of the Diocese of New York: “With this letter, I am inviting every parish to honor the letter and spirit of our convention resolution with this prayerful observance of the 155th anniversary of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment”:

December 7, 2020

My Brothers and Sisters,

At the 244th Convention of the Diocese of New York, one month ago, a resolution was offered and approved to designate the Third or Fourth Sunday of Advent as a time of thanksgiving for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution on December 18, 1865, which abolished chattel slavery in America. That amendment did not end the enrichment of individuals and corporations in America from the practice of slavery – a struggle which continues to this day – but it did end the centuries-old institution of slavery as America had known it. We intend in this diocese, on one of the Sundays closest to that anniversary, to offer prayers of thanksgiving to God for what that act meant immediately following the Civil War, and what it continues to mean for us in the twenty-first century as we still carry the banner proclaiming that Black Lives Matter, and still seek repair for the long consequences of slavery in this country.

We are called to give thanks now, even in remembrance that in that same year of 1865 the General Convention of the Episcopal Church considered the matter of slavery to be still too divisive for the church even to take a position on it. We give thanks now, even in remembrance that at the time of the Civil War the Convention of this Diocese of New York refused to condemn slavery or the institutions in New York which continued to profit by it. So, our thanks are made now in contrition, for the barriers which were erected in this diocese to stifle that new breath of freedom and quality which was blowing in America. And our thanks are made now in hope, too, that our God, who has brought us this far by faith, will strengthen us to finish the course unto that day when the long struggle for racial justice and equality is won.

The resolution calling for this day of prayer was drafted by Mr. Evan Davis of the Church of the Heavenly Rest, together with that vestry, and with the support of Ms. Diane Pollard. In offering that resolution, Evan observed that “racial injustice is … a vital concern in our religious practice and belief and a necessary corollary of the commandment to love our neighbor and our baptismal covenant to respect the dignity of every person.”

Below is a prayer which you may include in the intercessions of your parish on that Sunday of thanksgiving. It has been written by Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, Dean of EDS at Union Seminary. Dean Douglas was the preacher at our convention liturgy this year, and powerfully so.

With this letter, I am inviting every parish to honor the letter and spirit of our convention resolution with this prayerful observance of the 155th anniversary of the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. Your reflections on this observance will be sought, as part of the resolution calls on the Diocese of New York to carry this forward to the next General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2022. We want to include your voices as we commend this anniversary practice to the larger church. With every good wish, I remain

Yours,

The Right Reverend Andrew ML Dietsche Bishop of New York

————–

A Prayer of Thanksgiving
The Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
Almighty God of Moses and Hagar, Creator and Redeemer of us All:

We come to you in thanksgiving for your liberating promise of justice where all your children will
one day be free;

We offer thanks for the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment which brought an end of chattel
slavery in this land;

We offer thanks for the work of those abolitionists who fought tirelessly to end the sin of chattel
slavery remembering especially the too often overlooked Black abolitionists such as Frances Ellen
Watkins Harper, Henry Highland Garnet, Sarah Parker Redmond, William Still, and Frederick Douglass;

Grant us, Loving God, forgiveness for our complicity with white supremacy and anti-blackness that
gave rise to chattel slavery and continues its legacy in other forms;

Grant us, Liberating God, the moral wisdom, moral leadership, and moral courage to continue the
work of freedom, until our world and society becomes a place free from the sins of white supremacy,
anti- blackness or anything that would betray the justice that you promise all of your children.

Help us, O God of the disinherited, to be church and thus to lead the way to a world free from the
pleas for black lives to matter, because they will matter.

Help us to never be content until that time when heaven has come to earth and all of your children
are free to live into the fullness of their created potential. Amen.