Maybe you’ve met our Bishop, Mark Beckwith, during one of his visits to Grace. His capacity to remember people is legend and I don’t only mean names. If you had a fifteen minute conversation at coffee hour three years ago with Mark during which you told him about your boyfriend’s band and your part time job driving a school bus, Mark will remember the band’s name is ‘Green Wilma’ and will ask if that kid ever stopped playing the flute with his nose on the ride home because you told him it would get stuck there permanently if you hit the breaks.
During his tenure as Bishop, Mark has visited each of the one-hundred-and-two churches that comprise the Diocese of Newark three times and has confirmed and received thousands of people. He’s also tried to orient our Diocese to what it means to be Episcopalian in the twenty-first century when the phrase “mainline church” might still be used as a shorthand to describe us but is no longer true. Even though it was still normal when Mark was a young priest to go to a gothic church on Sunday morning and drink wine with strangers from a hundred-and-fifty year old chalice, now it’s kind of a weird thing to do.
But being weird is not a new phenomenon for the church; it’s a very old one. For the first, few hundred years of the church, “Christian” was a term of derision and we were a counte- cultural movement instead of an institution. Back then, the thing that marked us wasn’t impressive landholdings in downtown Manhattan and full pews, it was sharing everything we had with each other, feeding everyone and as St. Paul counseled, overcoming evil with good. (Romans 12:20)
During his ten years as Bishop, Mark has told us it’s time to worry less about our buildings and budgets and go out into our cities and towns to seek the face of Christ in our neighbors. He’s asked that we dig down into our religious DNA and remember what it means to be a people who are “sent out” to preach Good News. Mark has commissioned us to figure out how to live the Gospel on Monday after we’ve heard it preached on Sunday. Don’t know where to begin? Try remembering the story the crossing guard told you about his grandson and knowing the names of the young, mostly black men who die on our city streets. If we spend time doing that like it is a prayer the answers start to come.
Mark steps down as our bishop next fall. Between now and then, a group of lay people and clergy have been tasked with finding our next bishop.
While our nation still strongly identifies as culturally Christian, on a policy level we are pointedly hostile to the Golden Rule while Jesus’ even harder mandate that we offer forgiveness to enemies is completely off the table. During this time of alternate truths, travel bans and wall building what does the church have to say?
The next Bishop will be our mouthpiece and whatever she says- I hope it’s clear, fearless, sacrificial and life giving.
Please help the Diocese shape a picture of the person we want to call to be our next bishop. Fill out the online survey below. As you do, perhaps it will help you frame your thoughts to remember the blessing that Bishop Mark has used to bless us all for many years.
May God give you Grace never to sell yourself short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth
and too small for anything but Love. Amen.
This survey was designed to give all members of the diocese the opportunity to provide your perspective as the Bishop Search/Nominating Committee develops the Diocesan Profile. The profile will provide vital information on our diocese to all who feel called to become the Xl Bishop of our diocese. Please take some time to prayerfully fill this survey out to help the Committee find the Eleventh Bishop of the Diocese of Newark: