Archive for June, 2011

Building Jerusalem

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

As a leader of the London-New York diocesan link program, I recently spent a busy five days in London. The seminar for New York clergy included luncheon with the Bishop of London (preacher at the royal wedding), dinner with the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a meeting with the Dean of Westminster Abbey (who presided at the royal wedding.) We also were given a private tour of the Tower of London by the Chaplain, dinner at Lambeth Palace, drinks at the House of Commons, and visits to a number of London parish churches, including St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

Once again, I was impressed by the intelligence and commitment of the city clergy and their leaders and also by their great interest in—and kindness toward—their fellow Anglicans in the United States. —J. Douglas Ousley


Out to Pasture

Monday, June 20th, 2011

In the past several months, five rectors of Manhattan churches have announced their impending retirements. This is a huge number; in the 1980’s, there might be at most a parish or two vacant at any one time, and often, all posts were filled.

Perhaps this is a statistical fluke. Perhaps this is just a generational blip. But since all of these clergy are well under the mandatory retirement age of 72, it is worth asking whether increased work loads or difficulties in serving the confused Episcopal Church “brand” have contributed to these priests seeking retirement. (In my view, all of these parishes are in better shape than when their respective incumbents took office–some in vastly improved condition.)

In the case of work loads, for example, the number of assisting clergy in most of these parishes has declined. In fact, the curate of old has become a rare luxury; for much of this year, the only assistant position listed for the Diocese of New York was Incarnation’s, and that was just filled.

As it happens, our search attracted 42 applications and inquiries. One can imagine that the five rectorships will attract large numbers–and one can hope that the successful candidates will build on the fine work of their predecessors. —J. Douglas Ousley


On the Front Lines

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

This past Memorial Day weekend, I had the privilege of seeing my nephew and godson graduate from the U S Naval Academy. He was also commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

The reality of “foreign wars” was inescapable; one speaker remarked that within two years of graduation, every single graduate could expect to be deployed outside of the United States.

Not the least of the blessings of the day was the speech by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The ending of Secretary Gates’ remarks was particularly moving; he made similar comments to troops last weekend. He said,

“As I mentioned earlier, this is my last address to America’s service academies, my last opportunity to engage the future leaders of our military as your defense secretary.  As I look out upon you this morning, I am reminded of what so struck and moved me when I went from being a university president to U.S. Secretary of Defense in a time of war.  At Texas A&M I would walk the campus, and I would see thousands of students aged 18-25, typically wearing t-shirts and shorts and backpacks.  The day after I became Secretary of Defense, in December 2006, I made my first visit to the war theater.  And there I encountered other young men and women also 18 to 25.  Except they were wearing body armor and carrying assault rifles, putting their lives at risk for all Americans.  And I knew that some of them would not make it home whole, and that some would not make it home at all.

“I knew then that soon all those in harm’s way would be there because I sent them.  Ever since, I have come to work every day, with a sense of personal responsibility for each and every young American in uniform – as if you were my own sons and daughters.   My only prayer is that you serve with honor and come home safely.  I personally thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service.  Serving and leading you has been the greatest honor of my life.”

Whatever we think of recent American military actions, we may be grateful that those in charge are painfully aware of the sacrifices that they are requiring of our young service personnel. —J. Douglas Ousley