Five months after you elected me to be your Bishop, three months after moving from New Jersey, one month after Katharine, our Presiding Bishop along with the other Bishops ordained and consecrated me as your 8th Ordinary, I wait with my extraordinary family in an empty house on—wait till you hear the name of the street—Cathedral Oaks (oh brother!) in Fairport for boxes to arrive on this cool morning in July. I want to keep you informed of what has happened during the past month, what is anticipated in the near future and what’s on my mind as I prepare to go to Lambeth.
These past months and days have been a whirlwind for me and my family, to say the least. On June 1st, the day after my Consecration, I hit the road running celebrating the Holy Eucharist at St. Peter’s in Geneva. Since then I have had Sunday visitations to Zion in Avon, St. John’s in Clifton Springs, St. Stephen’s, and St. Mark’s and St. John’s in Rochester, and Garrett Chapel in Bluff Point. I have officiated at an informal Eucharist at Wellsville in Allegany County followed by a barbecue at the Barrett’s. I also had the privilege of ordaining Jennifer Zogg as a Transitional Deacon, and celebrating Marilyle Sweet Page’s last service before her retirement. All this while meeting with several individuals and groups, including the District Bible Study groups, to engage the business at hand and at the same time trying to understand how things work in this unique place called the Diocese of Rochester. “How on earth did I get here, and who are all these people asking me questions?” are words on a post-it pad that my gracious Executive Assistant gave me on my first day at work after my Consecration. It says it all!
My friends, it is a privilege to serve as your Bishop in the midst of the whirlwind, because it gives me the opportunity to witness the many tangible ways you live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these challenging times. I want to thank you all for your role in making the Ordination and Consecration liturgy the amazing gift it was! It really felt as if all of us were in mass consecration together. I also want to thank you for the gift of the ring, which has two signs apart from the seal of our Diocese. One is the seal of the Church of South India with the words “that they all may be one” from the Gospel of John inscribed, and the other is the symbol of the dove reminding me that the people of this Diocese and the world are God’s beloved, just as I am. When I am in doubt of this, I just run my thumb over it to remember and believe again.
Now let me tell you what I propose to do with regard to the immediate staffing situation at D-House. After much prayer and directed conversation, I have decided to call the Rev. Albert Keeney and the Rev. Denise Yarbrough to become Canons to the Ordinary. Al will be transitioning officially in mid July, but will fulfill some significant responsibilities at St. John’s in Canandaigua through the month of July. His last Sunday there will be September 7, 2008. I met with the wardens of St. John’s to officially communicate my desire to have Al join the D-House staff. They were gracious in receiving this news and were “not surprised!” I believe it is important that we have these significant positions at D-House filled by competent and spiritually grounded people in this new Episcopate to enable us to transition into a new day with some confidence. Both Al and Denise bring varied gifts to the table. In addition to the discreet responsibilities they each have at present with respect to deployment or theological education, other responsibilities and ministry emphases will be determined as we go through the listening process in this next year. They will join Canon Karen Noble Hanson and me to discern and provide servant-leadership to the Diocese and the Church at large. We are in the process of figuring out when we might have the new Canons officially vested and will communicate details as soon as we make a decision. As many of you are aware, the Rev. Don Hill will be away on his sabbatical, beginning at the end of July, for three months. In his absence, the Rev. Julie Cicora has agreed to manage Living Water. We give thanks for Julie’s willingness to serve the diocese in this way.
I have invited Diocesan Council to take the show on the road, if you will, for a special season of listening and discernment after this year’s convention. We will communicate details on this, but it essentially will be an opportunity for the Council, Canons and I to come to the Districts for an intentional time of conversation to brainstorm about aspirations for this new Episcopate. After such a season of sacred listening we will convene for a retreat, perhaps after Easter in ‘09 to begin a process of articulating a visioning strategy, which will inform our discernment of priorities for the near and distant future.
Soon I will be leaving for Lambeth, a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion. The exclusion of Bishop Robinson at Lambeth is a hurtful reminder that so many are not welcome at the table, yet. We may continue to disagree, but we can never afford to exclude in the name of God. I am looking forward to opportunities where we might build relationships in informal settings so that we might tackle some of the big problems of our world. I am looking to learn from bishops who differ from my beliefs without losing sight of the larger bodies of invisible saints they represent in the Anglican Communion. I am looking to be present as a bridge-builder, a non-anxious presence, a healer and a servant in this imperfect communion. I am looking to pray with my colleagues who are facing challenges similar and dissimilar to ours in these challenging times. I am also looking forward to worshiping God as a congregant, sharing and listening in the group Bible studies, marching from Buckingham Palace in protest against global poverty, and perhaps drinking tea with the Queen. My Queen, Roja, will join me for a week towards the end of Lambeth. We will attend the wedding of a dear friend where I get to preach just before we leave for the US. We plan to arrive back home in early August after which we will take some time off as a family traveling in the area and settling into our new home. We are mindful that there may be pastoral needs during my time away and we will work to have clergy “on call” during this time. We will have a schedule and folks at D-House will be able to reach someone at all times. Please uphold us in your prayers as we hold you in ours.
I hope you have a restful, rejuvenating summer. Be kind to yourself and your loved ones.
Your servant in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Prince G. Singh
Eighth Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Rochester